The recent attacks on miners in Burkina Faso has put the issue of security in risky jurisdictions such as Africa back in the spotlight.
In the latest attack – the third on a Boungou gold mine convoy since August last year, 39 civilians were killed and more than 60 wounded by unidentified attackers, leading Canadian operator SEMAFO to suspend operations at the mine.
It also comes as Islamist insurgents launched a series of attacks in several West African countries, with the US Department of Defense saying that the number of violent attacks caused by extremist groups had doubled each year since 2016.
The Australian government has also weighed in on the issue, with the smartraveller website advising visitors to reconsider their need to travel to the country and to avoid all areas along the borders with Mali, Niger, Benin and Togo due to the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
Perth-based mining services company Perenti Global (ASX:PRN) said that it was evacuating its local workforce from Boungou after confirming that 19 members of its African Mining Services subsidiary were killed in the attack while another 26 were wounded.
This is hardly the first incident involving an Australian company in Burkina Faso either.
In January this year, West Africa-focused gold explorer Predictive Discovery (ASX:PDI) announced that a senior employee of its joint venture partner Progress Minerals was kidnapped and killed in the country.
The Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group said the situation in Burkina Faso had worsened since 2016, with new security threats to operations in the far northeast of the country increasing in tempo with the infiltration of Islamic and al Qaeda-linked militants from strongholds in northern Mali.
Despite this, the peak body’s CEO, William Witham, said that Burkina Faso remained an attractive region for investment with about 20 Australian companies in various stages of exploration and development.
“Australian companies genuinely want to see Burkina Faso build a strong and sustainable mining sector. With a positive gold climate and considered one of West Africa’s best-known underexplored gold regions with a fantastic population, the country is brimming with potential,” he noted.
However, Witham acknowledged that the recent attack highlighted the challenges that international companies faced while developing mining operations in the country.
“We are proud of our Australian member companies who show unwavering determination to drive positive economic outcomes for both communities and shareholders in West Africa, and I am confident that their investment in Burkina Faso will press ahead with a heightened vigilance on security,” he added.
He also told Stockhead that companies have upgraded security at camps and mine sites as well as routes to and from the capital, Ouagadougou.
Some of the Australian explorers operating in Burkina Faso include Arrow Minerals (ASX:AMD), Blina Minerals (ASX:BDI), Golden Rim Resources (ASX:GMR), Vital Metals (ASX:VML) and West African Resources (ASX:WAF).
Arrow recently acquired six gold exploration projects in Burkina Faso, though these appear to be located largely in the country’s safer southern and western regions.
Meanwhile, Golden Rim has been focusing its efforts on its Kouri project while leaving the Babonga project on hold due to its proximity to the Niger border.
Vital Metals has suspended all exploration activity in Burkina Faso due to the ongoing security concerns
Last month, the company said that it was taking steps to minimise expenditure in the country by terminating rental on the exploration camp and associated infrastructure, consolidating exploration assets and samples back to its admin office in Ouagadougou and reducing exploration staff headcount.