Thursday, November 23, 2017

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Full Newsletter issue #1


Chief Executive Officer’s Remarks

The Société Equatoriale des Mines (SEM – « Gabon Mining ») is proud to present the very first newsletter dedicated to the Gabonese mining sector.

 Gabon, with nearly 70% of its territory still unexplored, offers several opportunities to investors. Its new mining Code, which is currently being scrutinized by the country’s parliament, aims to guarantee operators an investment framework which is modern and better adapted to competition. 

Gabon is a truly viable destination for investors. The obvious determination of the Government to increase the mining sector’s GDP and export shares suggests that mining will enjoy a promising future. 

The newsletter will inform you of all the highlights of the news relevant to this highly potential sector.

 We hope you will enjoy reading it!

 

Key figures 

  • 17 billion FCFA (around US$34 million): the amount the Government paid CMEC to buy back the Belinga iron permit.
  • 4% and 6%: Contribution of the minig sector to GDP and the share of mining export.
  • 3.6 million tons: Estimates of COMILOG’s production of manganese for 2013.
  • 36,500 ounces (1,020 kg): Managem’s gold production in 2013.
  • 69.7% and 49%: Rate of iron concentrate and iron yield level in Kango-North.
  • 33% - 40%: Average iron content in Mekambo-East.
  • 330 billion FCFA (around US$700 million): turnover of the Gabonese Mining Union’s members in 2012.
  • 1,431 ounces (43 kg): amount of gold collected by the CGCO in 2013.

 

MINING NEWS


IRON: From now on the Government owns the Belinga deposit.

 Following the delays noted in the development of the Belinga’s iron mining project, the Gabonese Government spent nearly US$34 million in favor of CMEC in order to recover all the mining rights for the Belinga deposit. By acquiring 180,000 shares with CMEC, the Government now owns 100% of the capital of COMIBEL, which was created in 2007 for the purpose of mining the deposit, which has an estimated 1 billion tons of iron.

 On 20 December 2013, the Ministry of Mines announced the acquisition of 180,000 shares of the Compagnie Minière de Belinga (COMIBEL – « Belinga Mining Company ») from China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) and Panzhihua Iron & Steel Group.

These companies, which owned 75% of COMIBEL, obtained a permit to mine the site located in the province of Ogooué Ivindo in 2007. 

In 2009, the President of the Republic of Gabon decided to examine from all sides the agreement for the exploitation of Belinga’s mines as a result of the delay noted in the implementation of the project. The commencement of the mining operations had been planned for 2011. 

This acquisition, which allowed the Government to acquire the entire share capital of COMIBEL, occurred in the wake of negotiations started in July 2012 and conducted, on behalf of Gabon, by the Minister of Industry and Mines, Mr. Régis Immongault Tatagani. Thus, the Government reimbursed US$33.997 million, which accounts for the costs of the works and studies carried out by COMIBEL, CMEC and its associates. 

The Belinga deposit has an estimated 1 billion tons of iron. In 2020, the production of the iron is expected to account for 36% of the mining sector income, or around 550 billion FCFA (around $1 billion US). 

MANGANESE: A promising 2013 and COMILOG declares optimism for 2014. 

After 2012, a year marked by a significant reduction in its production of manganese, COMILOG announced its predictions for 2013 synonymous of a return to an optimal production with a growth rate of 20% in its output.  The Complexe Métallurgique de Moanda (CMM – “Moanda Metallurgical Complex” in English), which will employ 500 individuals, will become operational in 2014, and the company is expecting to produce 4 million tons of manganese ore. 

The Compagnie Minière de l’Ogooué (COMILOG – « Ogooué Mining Company » in English) expects a production of 3.6 million tons of manganese on its Moanda site in the province of Haut-Ogooué (South-East of Gabon) in 2013. 

This result marks a break with 2012, during which COMILOG experienced a nearly 12% decline in production from 3.4 million tons in 2011 to 3 million in 2012. These bad results were partly due to a decline of the demand from their main markets in China and Europe. 

According to the operator, the boom of the ore production expected for 2013 (with a growth rate of 20%) could stem from a favorable global economic situation with an increased demand in the markets and the improvement of the company’s logistics through the acquisition of new wagons. 

For 2014, COMILOG is optimistic and expects a production of 4 million tons. In order to reach such objective, the company resized certain industrial and port facilities. One of the highlights in 2013 for COMILOG is the construction of the Moanda Metallurgical Complex, which will be operational in 2014. 

Regarding this complex, COMILOG’s Communications Director, Mr. André Massard, emphasizes that “with the CMM, Gabon will be of the few, if not the only African country to possess such technology. CMM shall allow for the production of both silico manganese and manganese metal, and thus increase the ore’s production. This achievement is aligned with the Industrial Gabon project as 400 direct jobs will be created in the region of Moanda. 

COMILOG, a subsidiary of the French group Eramet, is the world’s second largest producer of manganese. The Gabonese Government holds 28.9% of the shares of COMILOG, as a result of an agreement with Eramet, whereby the Government can buy additional shares up to 35% in the participation of the Government in the next few years.

COMILOG is the world’s first producer of manganese-based products for the chemical industry and the world’s second largest producer of high-grade manganese. The Moanda deposit accounts for 25% of the world’s high-grade ore. Gabon’s reserves account for more than 250 million tons spread among the sites of Moanda, Franceville (Haut-Ogooué) and Ndjolé (Moyen-Ogooué). The manganese sector accounts for around 95% of the mining sector income and the Government plans to locally transform more than 20% of the ore production through the development of local infrastructures and capabilities. 

GOLD: Optimistic outlooks for Managem in 2013 and 2014 

After a promising start in 2012, Managem envisions good results for 2013 thanks to its investments, which allow it to confront technical difficulties. At the start of its activities, the company had to deal with storms, which slowed down operations, and in 2013 it implemented the measures to overcome the mineralogical constraints, which accelerated the wear of the machines. 

Managem, the operator specialized in gold mining, announced their results for 2013. Its production during that period was 36,500 ounces (1,020 kg) compared to 21,400 ounces (599 kg) in 2012, which marked the start of the operations, the stabilization of the stream and the training of new teams with processing and mining methods. 

In 2012, there were delays noted in the commissioning of the processing plant. Some equipment arrived late and intense bad weather conditions prevented assembly operations. Added to that, subcontractors were inappropriate and there was limited skilled labour. 

For 2014, the company anticipates a marked improvement in production due to an additional investment for the purpose of coping with mineralogical constraints, which caused an accelerated wear to the equipment. 

“We have been mining in difficult weather conditions (9 months of rain) and the logistical requirements for the transportation of the equipment and spare parts took time to master. The results for 2012 were very positive for a starting year, and we are expecting good results for 2013 and 2014 since we have been able to both overcome technical difficulties and stabilize our teams”, Mohammed Gharrabi, Deputy Director of Managem Gabon, emphasized. 

In Gabon, the MANAGEM Group is represented by two subsidiaries: Ressources Golden Gram Gabon and MANAGEM Gabon. Ressources Golden Gram Gabon, which mines the deposit in Bakoudou (province of Haut-Ogooué), has 2 research permits, and Managem Gabon possesses the permit to mine in Eteké (province of Ngounié).

IRON: Encouraging research results for Apollo Minerals Ltd. 

Apollo Minerals Ltd has announced the results of its exploratory works and rock samples’ geochemical tests on its site in Kango-North, located in a geographical area, which is first class thanks to its proximity to transport and energy infrastructures. Such promising results allow the company to plan the mining phase. However, this step shall be preceded by an environmental impact assessment, due to the location of Kango-North in a buffer region. 

The Australian company Apollo Minerals Ltd. published the first results of its rock sample analyses as part of its Kango-North project (with an area of 400 km2), which derives from the Monts de Cristal permit. Apollo Minerals owns 70% of the stakes of the project, which is located in the province of Estuaire.

The results of the geochemical tests on the samples indicate, among other things, a very high quality of iron concentrate (69.7%) with a very low level of impurity and produced with a very good yield level (49%).

The analyses also indicate a coarse grinding size (75 µm) and an average rate of iron in the rock, which is between 40% and 50%. The CEO of Apollo Minerals Gabon, Mr. Ivan Ayo Barro, says: “these encouraging results inspire the group to plan the mining phase. However, during the phase prior to drillings, we need to carry out an environmental impact assessment since the North Kango site is located in a buffer zone. This will affect the exploration time frame.” 

The site of the Kango-North’s project is a first class geographical area. It is located 85 kilometers from the port of Owendo (Panamax class), 20 kilometers from the Transgabonais railway infrastructures and 30 kilometers from the roads within 20 kilometers from the Kinguélé and Tchimbélé hydroelectric dams. 

Apollo Minerals Ltd. launched exploratory and exploitation operations for titanium and iron in the South and West of Australia, and iron in Gabon. Recently, the company reorganized the management of its assets through the creation of the subsidiary NewCo, which specializes in iron mining. Jindal Steel & Power, India’s third largest producer of iron, invested US$10 million in NewCo. 

IRON: Waratah Resources Gabon SA publishes preliminary exploratory findings in Mekambo-East. 

Waratah Resources, which is established in Gabon since 2011, conducts its exploratory operations in Mekambo-East region. Further to geochemical tests, the company announces very encouraging results for the rest of its operations. These results concern only half of the permit. Waratah Resources is considering implementing a local transformation strategy by sourcing coal from Overend Outsource. 

Waratah Resources Gabon SA published the finding of the exploration activities in its Mekambo-East project (province of Ogooué Ivindo). 

The Australian operator estimates the reserves of iron in the permit area at 43 million tons. The metallurgical tests of the samples especially indicate an average iron content rate between 33% and 40%, and an optimal rate of 65%.

These findings concern only half of such area where Waratah bored 47 pits. The company expects to bore a total of 80 pits in order to explore the Southern area of the permit, where it has high expectations for future production. 

“These findings are conclusive ones, and we are excpeting results from other tests before starting mining the ore. The Mekambo region is located far from the railway, and we are planning to process the ore on-site using the gravity concentration method”, the representative of Waratah Resources Ltd. in Gabon, Mr. Jean-Clément BEYEME. 

Waratah Resources Ltd. operates in Gabon since December 2011. It started its exploratory activities in Mekambo-East in January 2012 with two Torque mobile drilling rigs. The company plans to use an on-site processing strategy despite the absence of natural coal in the subsoil in Gabon and neighboring countries. This fundamental ingredient could be acquired in Botswana, where the company is negotiating with Overend Outsource. 

INTERVIEW: UMIGA speaks about their activities and the mining sector’s situation  

The Vice-President of the Union Minière du Gabon (UMIGA – Gabonese Mining Union) speaks about the developments in the Gabonese mining sector and the activities such organization, which gathers 16 operators. The UMIGA, which accounts for a total revenue of US$700 million and 4,000 jobs positions itself as a privileged interlocutor with the authorities. The trade union was involved in discussions on the new mining Code and also participates in the discussions on the sector‘s Guide. 

The Union Minière du Gabon (UMIGA) is a group of operators with 16 members. The organization, which was created in July 2010, positions itself as a privileged interlocutor with the Gabonese administration with regard to issues related to the promotion of the interests of the mining industry. 

In 2012, its members had a total revenue of 330 billion FCFA (around US$700 million), a growth of 100 billion FCFA (around US$220 billion) in exploration investments, as well as 4,000 direct and indirect jobs. 

The Vice-President of the UMIGA, Mr. Thomas Pucheu, agreed to speak about the activities of the organization and his intrepretation of the mining scetor’s trends. 

The UMIGA has been existing for three years now. What is your assessment of your activities? 

The assessemnt is very positive since we managed to develop a more efficient organization with an office and technical commissions working with the authorities. The UMIGA also managed to unite the operators working in Gabon in the various activity cycles: prospecting, exploration, development, mining and post-mining, quarrying and cement manufacturing. 

It should be noted that 2012 was a transitional year. We dissolved an older, dormant trade union, in favour of a single-structured trade union, the UMIGA. COMILOG, the main mining actor in Gabon, joined the new trade union. 

The UMIGA succeeded in developing and consolidating its business relations with the Gabonese administrative authorities: the Ministry of mines and the administrations of tax, customs, the environment, etc., not to forget the other socio-economic actors affected by our projects, which include the Gabonese Employers Confederation and NGOs.

Your organization aims at ensuring the consideration of the interests of the operators in the decisions of the Government. What are the main issues for the UMIGA?

Yes, indeed – we want to position ourselves as a credible and privileged interlocutor with the Gabonese administration when it comes to issues related to our members’ activities. We expect to have a practical right of scrutinity on reform proposals and to exchange our experiences both in Gabon and elsewhere in Africa.

We must keep in mind that mining projects are very structuring for a national economy, even regionally, and that the expectations are numerous as far as the Belinga project is concerned. However, very few exploration projects prove to be economically and technically feasible. Such projects are extremely fragile, and their execution is complicated. In addition, large projects can only be developed by a small number of operators

The main priorities for the UMIGA are as follows:

-          The implementation of the new mining Code and the sector guide in 2014;

-          Transparency in the governance of the sector (re-join the EITI process);

-          Assisting the administration with new projects and efficient co-ordination between the various administrative authorities;

-          Statement of the strategy for the industrialization and support of the Governement in industrial projects;

-          Incentive for operators in exploratory phase to invest more and to promote Gabon’s opportunities.

 

What challenges have you identified with regard to the development of the mining sector? Are the actions taken by the Government appropriate, even sufficient?

We mainly identified two major challenges: the development of the infrastructures (roads, railways, ports, energy) with a vision of regional integration and the training of a skilled labour, which can meet the needs of the operators.

There are also other important issues, such as the promotion and support of investors, transparency and good governance, improvement and simplification of the administrative procedures and the strengthening of the role of the civil society.

With its new mining Code, Gabon aims at making the mining sector more attractive for foreign investors. What is your analysis of the changes made to this regulatory instrument?

We should remember that the current Code dates from 2000. The message of the authorities focusses on the attractiveness of the sector, but also the preservation of the environment and the promotion of the interests of the State as part of a win-win situation. Equilibrium is not easy to reach.

A major mining project is characterized by significant capital investments (>500M$). Therefore it is essential to provide investors with a sound legal framework, good governance of these operations and a secured long-term financing.

The new mining code implements new mechanisms, whose applicability should be flexible and progressive with, among other things, the participation of the State, the social and industrial responsibility of the operators, the new financial contributions required by the Government from the operators in mining phase, and tax burden.

Much flexibility is required to support existing investors and to encourage new companies to come in and invest. Gabon has a huge potential but many investments are required to exploit such potential. It takes, in particular, much more emphasis on mining exploration. Beyond new mechanisms and concepts, their implementation of such remains essential and expected. Promotion with foreign investors is also required.

Do you have a special message you would like to send to the sector’s potential investors? 

Yes. We encourage them to come and invest in Gabon and to participate in the efforts and development of the mining exploration; to engage in more partnerships and take adavantage of the opportunities available to investors on the mid and long term. 

Institutional News

NEW MINING CODE: Gabon shows new ambitions for making the mining sector more attractive. 

As part of its aim to make the mining sector more attractive, Gabon is about to adopt a new mining Code, which will meet the expectations of investors and address concerns about the protection of the environment and social responsibility. In particular, it involves the simplification of the exploration licensing process, rational management of mining resources and the establishment of the mining register. The new mining Code, which had been adopted by the Council of Ministers in April 2013, was presented to the Senate last October. It is expected to pass into law in 2014. 

On 4 April 2013, the Council of Ministers adopted the draft law regulating the mining sector. This new text aims to revitalize the sector with the introduction of a new institutional, tax and technical framework.

According to the Industry and Mines Minister, Mr Régis Immongault Tatagani, “the new mining Code is a real tool for modernizing the mining sector – it will offer a regulatory framework that will be more attractive and better adapted to the challenges recognized in a highly competitive environment. This framework will allow for reconciliation of the protection of the interests of the mining operators and corporate and social responsibility, and protection of the environment and long-term development, as well as the involvement of small and medium Gabonese companies in subcontracting.” 

The mining sector is one of the cornerstones of Gabon’s industrialization strategy. It is one of the strategic sectors of the national economy, and the Government has set itself the objective of increasing its shares of GDP and exports (currently 4% and 6% respectively). By 2025 it expects that the mining sector will muster a contribution to the tune of 3,350 billion FCFA (approx. $7 billion US) to the GDP, at par with the oil sector, which is the current leading contributor to its GDP.

The industrialization of the sector has the aim of achieving local processing of raw materials for the purpose of marketing products with higher added value in the international market. This evolution requires the support of foreign direct investments in order to satisfy the recognized financial, technical and human challenges. The mining sector currently represents 4,000 employees (direct and indirect).

The new mining Code, which replaces the Code of 2000, was introduced to the Parliament (Senate) in October 2013, and it is expected to pass into law in 2014. In particular, it provides for the simplification of the exploration licensing process, the protection of mining investments, the rational management of mining resources and the establishment of the mining register.

As far as the protection of investments is concerned, the Code recognizes the primacy of the rights attached to mining bonds, as well as the prevalence of bilateral agreements and multilateral treaties in different cases. Gabon has joined the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

As far as the mining sector is concerned, it will allow specifically for the prevention of risks of irregularity in procedures for the authorization and attribution of mining permits. 

As far as taxes are concerned, the new Code provides many benefits, which include, in particular, tax exemption of the operations during the exploration phase, tax breaks for projects of all sizes, and incentives such as exemptions from customs duties. 

Environment: Mining operators and NGOs on the verge of validating the sector Guide. 

For several months, public institutions, mining operators and NGOs have been involved in discussions to validate the sector Guide, which is dedicated to evaluating the environmental impact of mining operations. The participants should agree on specific concepts, including the Environmental Commitment, the Environmental Declaration, the Environmental Impact Notice and the Environmental Impact Study. The Guide is a complement to the General Environmental Impact Studies Procedures Manual, and marks a considerable evolution in environmental regulation. 

From October 22nd-24th, the Direction Générale des Mines et de la Géologie (DGMG – « General Directorate for Mines and Geology ») convened mining operators and NGOs to a series of meetings dedicated to the sector Guide, which is included among the provisions of the new mining Code.

These discussions were included in the Code validation process and were discussed in advance by the mines and environmental administration bodies i.e. the DGMG (representing the Industry and Mines Ministry) and the Direction Générale de l’Environnement et de la Protection de la Nature (DGEPN – « General Directorate for the Environment and the Protection of Nature ») representing the Ministry in charge of the environment.

The participants, who are required to validate the document under the title « Guide Sectoriel des Evaluations Environnementales des Opérations Minières au Gabon » (« Sector Guide of the Environmental Evaluations of Mining Operations in Gabon ») as soon as possible, have agreed on the diagrams of the procedures relative to the evaluation of the impact of mining activities on ecosystems and populations. What is being referred to here are the Environmental Commitment, the Environmental Declaration, the Notice d’Impact sur l’Environnement (NIE – « Environmental Impact Notice ») and the Etude d’Impact Environnemental (EIE « Environmental Impact Study »).

The Environmental Commitment is a document that allows the operators to outline the impacts that their activities have had on ecosystems and to draft an inventory of the actions to be undertaken for the purpose of reducing pollution.

The Environmental Declaration is a form in which companies present their activities and list the potential impact of their activities on the ecosystems. The companies also commit to respecting the decrees of the mines and environmental administration bodies.

The Environmental Impact Notice is a procedure that applies to mining projects with a low level of environmental impact; however, these must nonetheless respect the current applicable regulations concerning the protection of the environment.

The Environmental Impact Study concerns the evaluation of the impact of mining projects on the ecological equilibrium and the living environment of the populations that are settled on the operations sites or in neighboring areas.

The Guide represents a major evolution in the field of environmental regulations. It is a complement to the General Environmental Impact Studies Procedures Manual, which includes both the general regulations in force since 1 January 2007 and the large variety of mining operations in Gabon.

To achieve this agreement, the DGMG has favored a participatory approach, to ensure the consideration of the opinions of the participants. The adoption of these procedures is a result of negotiations between the operators, NGOs, the DGMG and the DGEPN, which made a significant contribution to the improvement of the Guide.

Monsieur Eugène Ndong Ntoutoume, Coordinator of the Extractive Industries Programme of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Gabon, has stated the following: “we have greatly appreciated the initiative to include NGOs in these discussions, as well as the fact that we have benefited from a consensual approach. We wish for all the participating parties, including the NGOs, to be fully involved in the whole evaluation process, both upstream and downstream.”  

SEM on the international stage

Mines and Money 2013: the SEM develops in own network in London.

The Societe Equatoriale des Mines played a part in the 2013 Mines and Money conference which took place in London last December. Its participation at this event, which included nearly 3,500 representatives from mining companies and the financial sector, aimed at developing its network and being a part of the evolution of capital markets  in the sector with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the issues concerning the development of its activities.

From the 1st to 5th of December 2013, in London, the SEM participated in the Mines and Money conference. This major event in the mining sector aimed at promoting the development of the mining industry through innovations in raising capital and the methods for the financing of mining projects.

The Mines and Money conference united nearly 3,500 representatives from mining companies and the finance sector, which interacted in a dozen workshops dedicated to technical and financial issues. The topics discussed included, among other things, analysis of the markets and exploration and marketing techniques, and presentations of production stories, as well as a summit on raw materials, which was organized on the first day of the event.

The CEO of SEM, Monsieur Fabrice NZE-BEKALE, has specified this: “Mines and Money offers networking opportunities, and like other operators, the SEM seeks to raise funding for its projects and to share best practices. At the moment, the SEM is focusing its activities on gold projects; but, on a mid-term basis, we are interested in other mineral resources. With this, it was important that we participate in Mines and Money; it allowed us to develop our network of contacts, among international investors in particular.” 

No fewer than 250 mining operators presented their projects to investors via stands present at the event.

 

Event: SEM expresses an interest in the tax systems of East African countries.

SEM participated in the West African Mining Tax Forum, which was organized in Abidjan last October. The event, organized by EY Tax and Legal, united several delegations from West Africa, and it offered the participants a framework for interaction on tax issues in the mining sector. The objective of SEM was to gather and incorporate other taxation systems adapted to the sector and practiced in West Africa. 

On the 28th and 29th of October in Abidjan, a SEM delegation participated in the first edition of the West African Mining Tax Forum organized by the EY Tax and Legal.

This event, which saw the participation of delegations from Guinea, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Gabon, had the aim of providing a framework for exchanges between participating countries in the various tax systems in the mining sector.

The participation of the members of the SEM in this forum had the aim of establishing new contacts and gathering and incorporating of the impact of tax systems on the performance of the sector. Certain West African countries are particularly successful in the mining sector, having recourse to good practices in the domain of mining taxation. In addition, the currently valid community mining code of the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (UEMOA – « Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa ») seeks to harmonize these practices.

SEM had the opportunity, within the framework of the individual workshops, to compare the organization of the artisanal gold mining sector in Ghana with the prevailing situation in Gabon.

In addition, during a plenary session, the CEO of the SEM gave a long description of the Gabonese mining sector. In particular, he explained the rationale behind the creation of SEM and its role in the development of the mining sector in Gabon.

At the end of this presentation, the organization Committee of the West African Mining Tax Forum offered to host the second edition of the forum in Libreville.

 

Special Dossier

Artisanal gold mining: the SEM at the heart of the development of the sector 

In Gabon, the organization of artisanal gold mining is a major issue – one that is characterised by economical, social and environmental challenges. Part of the gold production from this activity is still beyond control of the Government. Miners, who work in small groups, possess only few financial and material means. In addition, they are still not aware of the environmental impact of their activities. 

In January 2013, the SEM implemented an action programme to assist gold miners with the marketing of their production and to raise their awareness on good practices. Within less than a year of their implementation, innovative actions were already giving results … 

Artisanal gold mining in Gabon essentially concerns five gold-bearing provinces: Moyen Ogooué, Ogooué Lolo, Ogooué Ivindo, Woleu-Ntem and Ngounié.

The Government has set itself the mid-term objective of ensuring the availability of gold reserves and a « gold fund » worth 250 billion FCFA (approx. 550 million dollars), which will consist, among other things, of the acquisition of the output of co-operative gold miners and individual gold miners.

These objectives position the SEM at the heart of the efforts of the Government to turn gold mining into a genuine industry in the years to come.

The issues… 

Artisanal gold mining is dealing with several challenges including the organization of the sector, the protection of the ecosystems and the improvement of the working conditions of the gold miners. There are many economic, environmental and social issues that reflect this sector’s complexity of this sector.

The organization of the crafts sector refers to a significant economic issue. Indeed, a major part of artisanal production is still beyond the control of the Government. Illegal gold mining takes place in remote areas, on sites which are unknown, or which are identified but difficult to access. In addition to this, gold miners frequently migrate between different sites. Gold miners change sites according to production perspectives, which may be limited to three months in certain cases. These factors make it difficult to muster any estimate of the production of the sector. Hence the interest shown in mapping sites and proceeding to identify active gold miners, in order to ensure better monitoring of their activities and develop efficient support programmes.

Regarding the environment, there has still been no proof of any use of mercury by gold miners. However, this does not mean that it is possible to exclude the risk that this polluting agent is used in mining sites. Mercury certainly allows for ensuring better gold yields; however, it is highly damaging to the environment, especially as far as groundwater is concerned. Hence we see the necessity of continuing to conduct awareness campaigns dedicated to artisanal gold miners, in order to make them aware of the environmental and sanitary impacts that are recognised with the use of this substance.

As far as the working conditions of artisanal gold miners are concerned, they are particularly difficult.

Their working conditions make them vulnerable. They live in makeshift shelters, and are exposed to several risks that include illnesses and attacks from wild animals.

The testimony provided by Corentin Maboghan, SEM manager in Makokou, North-East of Gabon, confirms these facts. He emphasises: « We maintain permanent contact with artisanal gold miners, and have noted seveal cases of illness among them. There is a real need to support these miners, who often lack properly adapted tools for their work. » 

Improvement of their work conditions will have a real impact on the level of their production. Also, the involvement of miners in the mining sector, a sector of major strategic significance for the Government, encourages them to develop the artisanal gold mining sector. 

The actions… 

Since 2009, the Government made an important step in its efforts to achieve better organization of the sector. The actions in favour of the development of artisanal gold mining activities have mobilised SEM and the Ministry of Industry and Mines ever since.

In 2013 the SEM implemented an action programme with the aim of supporting gold miners in the marketing of their yields. The SEM created a subsidiary, the Comptoir Gabonais de Collecte de l’Or (CGCO – « Gabonese Gold Collection Centre »), with the aim of organising the artisanal gold mining sector of Gabon.

In the framework of this project, the SEM favours a collaborative approach; it involves the following in particular in the fight against poaching: the Technical Assistance Cell of the Ministry of Industry and Mines and the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN – « National Agency of National Parks »), as well as the World Wildlife Fund, with whom the SEM signed an agreement in order to guarantee better consideration of environmental risks in its initiatives.

Since January 2013 the CGCO has established two gold collection centres in Makokou (province of Ogooué Ivindo) and in Ndjolé (Moyen-Ogooué).

These centres work on a basis of permanent contact with the gold miners. They also organise specific gold collecting activities in the rest of the country.

Wesbert Moussounda, Operations Director of the CGCO, has announced: « we want to provide concrete and practical solutions to these challenges. Gold miners have a permanent need to sell their production yields. Through our bases, we hope to establish a connection with the gold miners, by purchasing gold and making them aware of their individual development by investing in training programmes and in other projects. » 

This awareness action of the SEM is part of the social development framework. It is part of a collection of initiatives through which the SEM aims to provide artisanal gold miners with a regular income in order to meet their needs.

The SEM contributes to the professionalisation of gold mining activities, and is interested in establishing co-operatives of gold miners.

In addition, the CGCO has created the « Gold App », an application for Android Smartphones which makes it possible to regulate more efficiently the collection of gold by CGCO agents at collection points or sub-centres. CGCO agents are equipped with Smartphones, and they register all the information (quantity of gold, price and place of purchase etc.) at the time of the collection. This innovation of CGCO satisfies the need to ensure traceability of the gold logistical chain, from the extraction sites up to the SEM headquarters. It also allows for the creation of a database on the gold mining industry.

The experience in these bases is very positive, and the objectives have been achieved. From January to December 2013, collection operations allowed for the collection of a quantity of 43 kg of gold. In addition, the frequency of bases in Makokou has seen a growth of 60% during the same period according to the CGCO; which will shortly be opening additional similar structures in Mitzic (Woleu Ntem), Lastourville (Ogooué Lolo) and Mouila (Ngounié) from January 2014.