Artisanal mining drives Mali gold exports up to 67.4 T in 2013

Tue May 27, 2014 3:08pm EDT
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By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO May 27 (Reuters) - 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 Reuters.