The Australian High Commission has expressed concern over what it described as “complicated” security situation in the sub-region and the threat it poses to mining firms operating in West Africa.
The Commission said it had become aware of the growing challenges faced by mining companies operating in West Africa particularly in the Sahel region where terrorist groups affiliated with Islamic State and Al Qaeda continue to expand their footprint.
Speaking at the opening of the third edition of the West Africa Mining Security (WAMS) Conference in Accra Madam Berenice Owen-Jones, the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, said continuing political instability and coups in the region had also created challenges for mining sector investment.
“The spread of jihadist violence in the Sahel is a particular concern for us. We are also concerned about the potential spillover effects into coastal states. We are concerned about the border region and the northern regions as well.
“We are seeing more insecurity and it is a complex and fluid situation which we will be talking about today,” she said.
Madam Owen-Jones emphasised the need to ensure a safe operating environment for mining firms to enhance the growth of the sector.
She said Australian mining companies were among the largest foreign private investors and operators in West Africa, and expressed the commitment of Australia to work together with mining firms to undertake more community-based development projects.
“We are supporting improved livelihoods to maintain stability across the Sahel through a $2.6 million investment in WFP’s Integrated Resilience to the Sahel Program,” she said.
Attended by the mining industry and mining security sector from across the region, the WAMS Conference will provide mining and exploration managers and security professionals with current information on regional security developments and best practice risk mitigation strategies to inform security and investment decisions in West Africa.
The conference, hosted by the Australian High Commission, was supported by the Australia-Africa Minerals and Energy Group (AAMEG) and MS Risk Limited and sponsored by mining companies including Atlantic Lithium and the Perenti Group.
Addressing the Conference on behalf of the Minister of National Security, Dr Victoria Sam-Abaidoo, Director of Intelligence Analysis, Ministry of National Security, said mining security should not be treated as a luxury or an afterthought but a necessity.
“We must consider the delicate balance between economic development and the wellbeing of the people who call mining communities their home,” she said, and rallied mining companies to invest in the communities in which they operate.
Mr Roger Staley, the Chief Executive Officer of AAMEG, underscored the importance of strengthening Australia-Africa engagement in the mining sector and noted that there was currently at least USD12.8 billion invested by Australian mining companies in West Africa.
There have been concerns in recent years about the increasing attacks on mining firms in some countries in West Africa, with industry analysts cautioning that the canker could derail investments in the sector.
In August 2022, unidentified gunmen killed six people and wounded two others in an attack on a convoy from the Boungou gold mine in eastern Burkina Faso.
In November 2019, gunmen in Burkina Faso killed at least 37 people in an attack on a convoy carrying employees, suppliers and contractors of a Canadian mining company operating in that country.