Artisanal Mining in Africa (Bac 2017 G1-G2 1er Tour)
On the outskirts of the western Ivorian town of Angovia, Joseph Bado bends over a pile of gold-laced stone, pulverizing it with a hammer. Mr Bado, who in his mid-30s, was born in a farming village in central Ivory Coast. Frustrated by his meager earnings in the cocoa fields, he left in 2003 to become a miner.
His travels took him to neighboring Ghana and Mali before he returned to Ivory Coast in 2013, drawn by its own nascent gold boom. “You can work for years in cocoa and not get anything. You won’t even have food,” says Mr Bado.
For many years Ivory Coast’s economic fortunes were tied to agriculture. After independence in 1960, it became the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Few people gave much thought to what treasures might lie deeper in its ochre-red soil.
But a decrease in cocoa prices and an increase in those of minerals prompted a boom in artisanal mining. From a base of virtually nothing at the turn of century, the government estimates that there are now some 500,000 small-scale gold miners.
For many governments and do-good development agencies, informal mining towns are the very definition of an unsustainable environment, as they are dirty and disorganized, with nomadic populations. Most miners work clandestinely, since they do not have a legal right to dig. Working conditions are generally poor. Young men, and sometimes children, may be lowered down a narrow mine 60 meters deep on a rope. Deadly accidents are common. So is the use of mercury, a pollutant, to extract gold.
Governments have responded to the growth of informal mining settlements in two ways. One is to evict the diggers. Ivory Coast’s1 government, for instance, says it has shut down more than 280 illegal sites since last year. More common, however, is for governments and aid agencies to pretend that these new mining towns do not exist. The UN agency and NGO sign-posts that are seen on so many roads in rural Africa are remarkably absent when the scenery turns from verdant fields to mines.
Governments that allow miners to legalize their operations see several benefits. They can keep a closer eye on labor and environmental conditions, and collect millions of dollars in taxes that would otherwise not be paid. In return, they sometime offer miners basic services such as water and sanitation.
Adapted from The Economist, May 7, 2016
A. Guided Commentary
1) According to the text, what is the reason for Joseph Bado’s departure from his village? (2 points)
2) Referring to the text, what were Joseph Bado’s activities before? (2 points)
3) Relying on the text, what justifies the expansion of artisanal mining in Ivory Coast? (2 points)
4) Give three risks linked to artisanal mining given in the text. (4 points)
5) Basing on the text, give two benefits that can justify the legalization of artisanal mining. (4 points)
B. Essay: (6 points).
In your opinion, what should the government of your country do to make artisanal mining beneficial to everybody? Justify your answer in ten to fifteen lines.