A powerful explosion near a gold mining facility in southwestern Burkina Faso killed 59 people and injured more than 100 others on Monday.
The news: Chemicals used to treat gold that were kept at the site are thought to have triggered the explosion.
What happened: “I noticed bodies all over the place. It was a nightmare,” said Sansan Kambou, a forest warden who was present at the time of the explosion.
- At around 2 p.m., the first explosion occurred, followed by further blasts as people fled for their lives, he claimed.
- Burkina Faso is home to some major gold mines run by international companies, but also to hundreds of smaller, informal sites that operate without oversight or regulation.
- It is Africa’s fastest-growing gold producer and the continent’s fifth-largest, with gold being the country’s most important export.
- Children frequently work in these so-called artisanal mines; accidents are common.
- In 2019, the industry employed over 1.5 million people and had a market value of around $2 billion.
In addition: Small gold mines, such as Gbomblora, have exploded in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 800 scattered across the country.
- According to the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, much of the gold is trafficked into neighbouring Togo, Benin, Niger and Ghana.
- Since 2016, jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State have reportedly used small-scale mines in strikes across the country. The gangs, according to sources, make money by charging miners and use sites to recruit soldiers and seek refuge.