“Profit over human rights? Gold mining in Burkina Faso and Switzerland’s responsibility”

In February 2016, Action de Carême (Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund) and Pain pour le prochain (Bread For All) released a report: "Profit over human rights? Gold mining in Burkina Faso and Switzerland’s responsibility".  The full report is only available in French.  Below is an unofficial translation by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre of the press release accompanying the report.  The Resource Centre also invited the three mining companies named in the report (Amara Mining, Iamgold, Nordgold) to respond to it. Their responses are below, as well as statements from Metalor, which is also named in the report and has at various times sourced gold for its refinery for these mines.

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Company response
3 April 2016

Nordgold second response

Author: Nordgold (Russia)

We are surprised by the suggestion that we have failed to react to Fastenopfer’s letters since we have been in continuous email dialogue with one of its representatives over their queries in recent months – our last exchange was in November 2015. At no point were these letters mentioned or any suggestion made that we had failed to react. You have received our full and frank response to Fastenopfer’s report. We maintain our position that the report is very negligent in many respects as it does not mention the broader efforts made by Nordgold via its social programmes in local communities. It instead relies on often inaccurate or misleading evidence. At all times the relocation processes undertaken by Nordgold were done in line with existing best practice and were successful for all involved. We have and always will be happy to respond to questions from Fastenopfer.

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Item
1 April 2016

Reply of Fastenopfer on behalf of Business & Human Rights on the companies' reaction to the report "Profit more important than human rights?

Author: Fastenopfer (Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund)

We would like to reply to the reactions of the companies (IAMGOLD, Nordgold, Amaramining and Metalor) following the release of our study...90% of the gold from Burkina Faso is refined in Switzerland. This fact means that the Swiss refineries take over part of the responsibility for the situation there, just as the Swiss Government, which determines the general regulations for these companies. Our report reveals that it is more difficult for the relocated population, in particular for women, to make a living. The relocation without taking the cultural and social needs into angemessene account, the loss of land and the even more drastically restricted earning situation are only three problems the population faces. The report focuses on the issue of human rights violations associated with industrial gold mining. We acknowledge the efforts of the mining companies in Burkina Faso addressing the consequences of relocating the population, the agricultural problems and the question of access to water, and would like to point out that we welcome their projects launched in favour of the population in concern. Our study, however, clearly underlines that said projects are not sufficient and that the efforts are not based on the needs and traditional way of life of the population affected. We therefore attempted to establish contact with the mining companies in Burkina Faso in summer 2015. Unfortunately we only received feedback from Amara Mining and then visited the Kalsaka Mine in the following. IAMGOLD and Nordgold failed to react to our contact letters. With regard to engaging with IAMGOLD we would like to underline that other institutions have been in contact with the civil population and the mining company in Essakane for a long time, and therefore it does not seem useful to start also negotiations with IAMGOLD...Our report has reflected clearly that there are several problems which need to be solved urgently. We regret deeply that the companies do not seem to acknowledge the existence of these problems, and that the local population has to continuously suffer under the pollution and burden caused or aggravated by the mining activities.

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Article
16 March 2016

Legislative gaps lead to abuses in gold mining

Author: Action de Carême and Pain pour le prochain (Switzerland)

[press release originally published 15 Feb. 2016]

Lax legislation in Switzerland encourages abusive practices by our [Swiss] companies abroad. In Burkina Faso, 14,000 people have been displaced to make way for three gold mines; the gold they extract is then refined in Switzerland.  Those displaced have lost all means of subsistence.  These are the findings of a new study by Action de Carême and Pain pour le prochain... Action de Carême investigated three gold mines in the country... The mines have caused the displacement of 14,000 people, whose rights have been flouted several times over: many have been deprived of their lands and of access to potable water.  Their harvests have diminished and hunger has increased.  “Before, we lived, but today, we only survive”, laments Florence Sawadogo (a pseudonym), a 25-year-old mother and one of the victims of the mines.

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Company response
14 March 2016

Amara Mining response

Author: Amara Mining (United Kingdom)

Amara Mining plc’s Bukinabe subsidiaries, SMSA and KMSA, ceased mining operations at the Kalsaka/Sega mine in Burkina Faso in August 2014. Since December 2014, SMSA has been in liquidation and KMSA has been subject to a court appointed creditor protection process, such that the operation has been under the control of a court-appointed liquidator. During the years that Kalsaka/Sega was in production (2008-2014), KMSA and SMSA supported comprehensive corporate social responsibility initiatives for the communities living close to the mine. These initiatives were chosen by the Community Consultative Committee, which KMSA and SMSA established and is formed of community leaders...to ensure the programmes that KMSA and SMSA support provide the maximum benefit for local people...Initiatives KMSA and SMSA supported included: Funding a literacy programme to teach women to read and write in the local language...Funding a programme for women to be trained in farming techniques...Building schools and housing for teachers..Construction of a reservoir and expanding a water dam to supply local people during the dry season...Financial support for young people from local communities...Building water pumps to give local people access to clean water...Financial support to the local police force and mayoral team...Sponsoring various HIV/AIDs awareness campaigns...Establishing an agricultural project...the mine also provided employment for, on average, 335 local people...Since the mine ceased production 18 months ago, KMSA and SMSA have upheld their obligations to pay compensation to local people affected by the development of the Sega deposit, such as farmers, in line with the relocation action plan. KMSA and SMSA are focused on ensuring that the Kalsaka/Sega mine is closed in an efficient manner, with all environmental obligations fulfilled...It is the policy of Amara and all of its subsidiaries to be a socially responsible business that balances economic prosperity with environmental stewardship and ethical business practice. We take our commitment to being a good corporate citizen very seriously and we are focused on ensuring that a positive and sustainable legacy is left beyond the lives of our mining operations.

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Company response
14 March 2016

Iamgold response

Author: Iamgold (Canada)

The Swiss NGO Action de Caréme (or Fastenopfer in German) published a report which focuses, in part, on Iamgold’s Essakane mine in Burkina Faso.  With respect to this report, Iamgold wishes to note the following: - the report provides a completely inaccurate picture of the situation in Burkina Faso. Disappointingly, Action de Carême completely disregarded extensive evidence about the positive impacts brought about by Iamgold’s activities in and around the Essakane.  We attach a recent sustainability report from the Essakane mine for your reference; - the report entirely disregarded existing conditions in the area around the Essakane mine and instead presumed all such conditions have been caused solely by industrial mining activity, which is demonstrably false...Iamgold has worked and will continue to work in Burkina Faso in compliance with the law, the standards of recognized international organizations and its internal policies, including but not limited to the full respect of human rights. Iamgold has been consistently recognized for its outstanding community engagement initiatives, particularly at Essakane, by a number of local and Canadian organizations for its work to improve the conditions of the communities living around the mine in Essakane. This generally outstanding record of community engagement is completely at odds with the picture Action de Caréme paints in their report. Tellingly, Action de Caréme makes no mention in their report of any of the domestic or international awards Essakane has received for its extensive and innovative community programs...regrettably, Action de Caréme made no attempt to engage with Essakane or Iamgold staff at any point in the conduct of their research or the preparation of their report.  In their report, Action de Carême provided no details of their on-the-ground research which they allegedly conducted in the summer of 2015 in the area of the Essakane mine, however, we do know that at no time did anyone from Action de Carême attempt to engage with anyone at Essakane during the period in which they purportedly conducted this field work.  When Action de Caréme finally did contact Iamgold, a week before they published their report, we provided them with additional factual information regarding our activities around the Essakane mine, which they completely ignored.  At the same time, Iamgold specifically offered to engage directly with Action de Caréme to address issues raised in their report, with a view to vetting identified concerns and, where appropriate, developing corrective action recommendations to address any confirmed deficiencies.  Action de Caréme rejected our offer and refused to engage entirely.  We struggle to understand how an organization that is supposedly focused on improving conditions for communities impacted by mining activities takes apparently no interest in furthering substantive work to that end.

 

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Company response
13 March 2016

Nordgold response

Author: Nordgold (Russia)

...Nordgold has been present in Burkina Faso since 2009 and invested over $690 million to date. The Bissa Gold mine payments in 2013-2015 alone stood at approximately US$125 million in taxes, royalties and indirect taxes, which made a significant contribution to the social infrastructure of Burkina Faso. Nordgold also contributed approximately US$600 thousand to social development programs in Bissa alone from 2013-2015 and we intend to match that next years. With this in mind we feel the report is very negligent in many respects as it does not mention the broader efforts made by Nordgold via its social programmes in local communities. Instead it relies on often inaccurate or misleading anecdotal evidence. At all times the relocation processes undertaken by Nordgold were done in line with existing best practice and were successful for all involved. There are no further plans for future relocation of the Bissa or Imiougou villages since their initial move. Below we've outlined how Nordgold actually operated contrary to specific concerns and/or allegations raised in the report...Nordgold has actually increased the number of wells available in these two villages since resettling the inhabitants. During the resettlement seven new wells providing drinking water for 2,050 people were built for these two villages in line with the Burkina Faso standard which prescribes one well for every 300 inhabitants. Prior to relocation, these villages only had five wells of which only four provided drinking water. In terms of ensuring appropriate hygiene and quality controls are in place, every three months qualified personnel from the Bissa mine inspect the quality of water in each well. Communities are informed of the results of each well water test and if a change to water quality occurs Nordgold always takes immediate steps to resolve the situation...Nordgold always managed the relocation processes directly with the villages involved via dedicated community relations departments. The company has never created agencies to manage the relationship between the mine and the communities. The Bissa mine formed its Community Relations Department in 2012 to manage the livelihood restoration and community development programmes, and it has continued to do so to this day...Since 2012 the minimum daily rate for the Bissa mine employees has been 2,500CFA, giving a monthly salary of at least 60,000CFA which is twice the minimum monthly rate in Burkina Faso of 33,163 CFA. This rate applies to all employees of the mine.

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Author: Metalor (Suisse)

Metalor réagit à l’étude publiée sur les conséquences de l’extraction d’or au Burkina Faso. Mi-février, deux ONG, Action de Carême et Pain pour le prochain, faisaient état de violations des droits de l’homme subies par les personnes déplacées, au nombre de 14'000, pour permettre l’exploitation de trois mines d’or. Metalor, entreprise basée à Neuchâtel, est directement visée par cette étude puisque c’est elle qui raffine le précieux métal émanant de la principale mine burkinabée. Elle conteste vigoureusement le rapport émis par les deux ONG. Pour José Camino, responsable des affaires légales et de la conformité chez Metalor, cette étude fournit une « image complètement fausse de la situation ». Il accuse ses auteurs de partialité et regrette qu’ils n’aient pas pris la peine de mentionner les aspects positifs développés en marge de l’extraction d’or. José Camino cite les nombreux projets mis sur pied pour les personnes déplacées par Iamgold, l’exploitant de la principale mine : la création d’emplois, les aides à l’agriculture et à l’élevage, le développement de points d’eau, la construction d’écoles ou encore le soutien à la formation professionnelle des jeunes. José Camino reconnaît qu’il y a forcément des personnes mécontentes de leur sort mais ajoute que celles-ci ont la possibilité de faire part de leur plainte en vue de trouver une solution...Autre point de désaccord : dans leur rapport, les deux ONG mentionnent une législation peu contraignante pour les multinationales en matière de respect des droits humains, ce que conteste vivement Metalor. José Camino évoque un cadre très strict et indique que Metalor travaille uniquement avec des entreprises qui extraient l’or de manière éthique. Des collaborateurs de l’entreprise se rendent également chaque année sur place pour évaluer la situation et prendre les mesures nécessaires, selon José Camino.

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Report
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Author: Pain pour le Prochain et Action de Carème (Suisse)

La Suisse est une plaque tournante importante du marché mondial de l’or...un pourcentage important de ce métal précieux est négocié, raffiné et stocké en Suisse. 70 pour cent de l’or produit dans le monde chaque année sont raffinés par des entreprises suisses...La plus grande partie de l’or extrait dans les mines du Burkina Faso est exportée en Suisse...en 2014, plus de 90 pour cent de l’or burkinabè étaient raffinés par Metalor Suisse...les raffineries suisses Metalor et PAMP [(Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux)] ont une part de responsabilité dans la situation sur place...La présente enquête portant sur la période de 2009 à 2015, nous ne considérerons que la raffinerie Metalor et laisserons PAMP de côté...L’ITIE indique dans son rapport de 2012 que l’or extrait de la mine d’Essakane était livré à Metalor....Metalor....a...confirmé fin octobre 2015 à Action de Carême qu’elle travaillait effectivement avec Iamgold, qui exploite cette mine...Les rapports annuels de Nordgold, l’opérateur de la mine de Bissa, mettent en évidence des relations d’affaires étroites entre l’entreprise et Metalor...de 2012 à 2014, Nordgold a, chaque année, vendu directement entre 30 et 50 pour cent de sa production d’or mondiale à Metalor...[qui]...a confirmé avoir raffiné l’or de la mine de Bissa jusqu’en juillet 2015. Nordgold nous a indiqué que l’or de la mine de Bissa est raffiné depuis juillet 2015 par la raffinerie PAMP...[qui]...a refusé de nous confirmer l’information pour des raisons de confidentialité...l’or de Kalsaka était, en 2012, également livré à Metalor...la totalité de la production d’or de la mine était livrée à l’époque à Metalor. Depuis, une grande partie de la production a été arrêtée. Metalor nous a confirmé en novembre qu’elle ne raffinait plus d’or en provenance de la mine de Kalsaka depuis juillet 2015...La....mine d'Essakane...exploitée par Iamgold...a des répercussions dramatiques sur les villages environnants...2500 familles ont été déplacées. Depuis 2009, plus de 11 000 personnes ont cédé la place aux pelleteuses et aux installations minières...Selon Iamgold, les déplacements à Essakane ont été réalisés conformément aux normes de performance de la SFI (Société financière internationale)...[Une rieveraine de la mine témoigne]...« J’ai ressenti le déménagement comme une agression...Depuis qu’on a été déplacés, nos bêtes meurent de faim...On n’a plus la même quantité de nourriture... Je mange moins qu’avant...Parfois, on a tous faim. »...Pour faire place à la mine de [Nordgold]...près de 3000 habitants ont dû être déplacées...[et]...doivent faire face au manque d’eau et de nourriture...Dans le cas d’Amara Mining également, les déplacements ont été à l’origine d’innombrables problèmes...Metalor dit qu’elle contrôle avec diligence sa chaîne d’approvisionnement...nous n’avons trouvé aucun indice qui garantisse qu’elle applique un contrôle diligent concernant d’éventuelles violations des droits humains...[Se réfère à KPMG, Ernst & Young].

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Company response
11 February 2016

Responsible Industrial Gold Mining in Burkina Faso and Respect of Human Rights/ The Role of Switzerland & Metalor

Author: Metalor (Suisse)

The Swiss NGO Action de Caréme (or Fastenopfer in German) is about publishing a report on the above subject and in particular about the role of Metalor in sourcing gold mineral from its customer Iamgold, that runs the Essakane mine in Burkina Faso. In this respect we want to make the point that:

  • the report provides a completely wrong picture of the situation in particular in Essakane that Metalor firmly rejects.
  • the report disregards the existing reality of the country and simply tend to automatically associate human rights violations to industrial mining activity. This is particularly NOT the case regarding the situation of Iamgold and the Essakane mine.
  • Metalor has worked and will continue to work in Burkina Faso in compliance with the law, the standards of recognized international organizations and its internal policies, including but not limited to the full respect of human rights. It is worth to remark that Iamgold has been consistently recognized for its outstanding community engagement initiatives, particularly at Essakane, by a number of local and Canadian organizations for its work to improve the conditions of the communities living around the mine in Essakane. Action de Caréme is disparaging both Metalor, Iamgold and the responsible mining work the latter has done in Essakane on the basis of very limited and biased field research and third party studies that have already been strongly contested in the past as unreliable. This is not acceptable in any way and Metalor reserves the right to defend its image and legitimate interest as appropriate.
  • the position of Metalor is clearly explained in the attached letter that summarizes the exchanges Metalor has had with Action de Caréme on this matter. Regrettably, Action de Caréme decided to ignore the factual information provided both by Metalor and its customer Iamgold.
  • Action de Carême is lacking transparency by knowingly disregarding documentary evidence about the positive inputs brought by the Company Iamgold in the region of Essakane.
  • Action de Carême is failing to provide the details of the researches allegedly made last summer in the region of Essakane. Metalor does not believe that a serious and true picture of the situation could be given by this NGO without any contact with the Company which operates the mine of Essakane.

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Author: Iamgold (Canada)

Depuis le début des travaux de la mine, se sont succédés de nombreux comités liés principalement au suivi de la réinstallation des populations déplacées. En 2012...AMGOLD Essakane SA...s’est doté d’un mécanisme d’information et de consultation permanente pour communiquer de manière régulière et transparente avec un plus grand nombre de villages environnants et leurs représentants. Ces rencontres trimestrielles regroupent, chaque fois, plus de 150 personnes représentants des communautés situées à proximité de la mine, des autorités administratives, des groupes d’intérêts spécifiques et des services techniques de l’État. Lors de ces rencontres, des informations sont échangées sur les thèmes d’intérêt pour l’ensemble des parties prenantes tels que : les emplois et achats locaux, les projets de développement communautaire, le suivi environnemental, la relocalisation de certains villages, la résolution des plaintes, etc...Cette implication de plus en plus grande dans la résolution des problèmes qui peuvent subvenir entre la mine et les populations locales, a permis de dénouer un grand nombre de situations...Durant l’année 2014, plus de 300 visites ont été réalisées par l’ensemble de l’équipe de relations communautaires ainsi que des premiers responsables de la mine à différentes parties prenantes telles que des représentants des populations, femmes, jeunes...Iamgold Essakane a mis en place un mécanisme formel de traitement des demandes externes qui permet de recueillir et d’enregistrer les plaintes et les doléances des parties prenantes. Ce mécanisme permet d’anticiper les problèmes et le mécontentement des populations riveraines et ainsi éviter les conflits majeurs. Par ce mécanisme, toute personne ayant une demande ou une plainte peut faire enregistrer sa demande par l’intermédiaire d’un agent de relations communautaires. [Se réfère à Gryphon Minerals, Nantou Mining, Semafo, True Gold]. 

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