Aussie miners on high alert after deadly attack in Burkina Faso


“The situation has been worrying people for a while, there have been a lot of attacks,” AAMEG chief executive Bill Witham said.

“This is more concerning as they are not just targeting military and police but also people associated with commercial operations.”

Parts of Burkina Faso are safer than others, Mr Witham said. Wednesday’s deadly attack occurred on the road to the Boungou mine in the country’s east, which has been “problematic for many years” as attacks by Islamist militants claimed hundreds of lives. Five people were killed on the same road in December.

Mr Witham said most Australian mining companies were based closer to the capital city and were continuing to operate.

Melbourne-based gold explorer Golden Rim Resources, which has two projects in Burkina Faso’s east, had already halted work on its easternmost resource prior to the attack due to the dangers in the region.

The company is pressing ahead developing its Kouri deposit 130 kilometres from the Niger border but the area surrounding its Babonga deposit, 40 kilometres from the border, is prone to attacks.

“We’ve basically put [Babonga] on ice and it has been for several years now because it’s a bit too close to the Niger border,” Golden Rim managing director Craig Mackay said.

“Unless the security in those border areas improves it just doesn’t make sense for us to be operating there.”

Peter Lewidge, the chief executive of Australian-listed Mako Gold, which has operations in Burkina Faso, said the country’s north and east were considered “no-go zones”. “The activity in the east really started in earnest in the last two or three years,” he said. “The situation has escalated with the jihadist movement … they are a lot more sophisticated.”

Mr Lewidge, who has 20 years’ experience working in Burkina Faso, said Mako Gold’s project in the country was 50 kilometres north of the capital, an area considered “safe on most maps”

“We have always been vigilant because we know the area and we have seen the deterioration,” he said. “I’ve been approached for projects in the north and east but I would refuse them, no matter how good they looked.”

Sixteen Australian companies have interests in Burkina Faso, according to AAMEG.

Mr Lewidge said the share prices of junior Australian miners with operations in Burkina Faso had slid on Friday following news of the attack on Perenti. Mako Gold’s stock price tumbled more than 6 per cent.

Mr Mackay said so many Australian miners were intrigued with the West African region due to its relatively young exploration history.

“It really is like Western Australia without the exploration history,” he said.

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