BAMAKO May 27 Gold exports from Africa's third
largest producer Mali rose to 67.4 tonnes in 2013 due to a big
jump in artisanal mining, customs and national institute of
statistics data showed on Tuesday.
An influx of workers and increased mechanisation pushed
artisanal exports to 20.7 tonnes, up from 1.6 tonnes the
previous year, helping to boost total gold exports from 45
tonnes in 2012.
The increase is significant for Mali, a West African country
whose economy has been damaged by the impact of a cycle of
rebellions in the north by ethnic Tuaregs.
A 2012 rebellion threw the country into chaos when Islamists
linked to al Qaeda hijacked the revolt and seized control of the
desert north. They were only defeated last year by an
international military operation led by French forces.
Mali is one of the world's poorest states, in part because
of its vulnerability to climate change. The United Nations has
asked for $2 billion this year to feed and care for impoverished
people in the parched Sahel region, that includes Mali, which
has been ravaged by drought for years..
"These (gold) statistics give us great comfort because they
prove that the artisanal gold sector is on the move and dynamic
and it can produce as much as the big gold companies which the
state has been forced to put under pressure," said Abdoulaye
Pona, president of Mali's Chamber of Mines.
"After the coup in 2012 followed by sanctions all sectors
have fallen into crisis except mining, so much so that rural and
urban people have veered towards artisanal mining," Pona told
Limitations imposed by governments on artisanal mining in
Ghana, Senegal and Burkina Faso have driven up the number of
workers in Mali's mines and increased the sector's productive
capacity, Pona said.
Another factor behind the improvement is a big influx of
mining equipment from China, which includes 500,000 gold
detectors, the same number of crushers and more than 1 million
motorcycles hitched to carts used in the industry.
"Gold mining is no longer with the hoe or the calabash
(bowl). Gold panning is now with excavators, crushers, dump
trucks and chemicals," said Belco Tamboura, director of
communications at the Chamber of Mines.
As a result, the number of private exporters has increased
in the last year, he said. Even so, big players still dominate
the industry with mining firms exporting 46.7 tonnes of gold.
Industrial mining companies, including AngloGold Ashanti
and Canada's IamGold, reported total output of
46.27 tonnes in 2012, according to government data.
Mali's government is yet to receive customs data for 2013
but based on available 2012 data, the overall production rise
could be linked to higher production from the informal, or
artisanal, mining sector, said Mines Minister Boubou Cisse.
"This analysis revealed that more than 9 tonnes of gold was
exported in 2012 that did not come from the industrial sector.
These exports consisted of raw gold, semi-developed gold and
powder," he said in an emailed reply to questions from Reuters.
He noted some of the exports were in breach of regulations
since Mali does not allow exports of gold in powder form.
(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Daniel Flynn and