Citizen action leads to a doubling of gold revenues to local communities

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in Africa, with roughly half of its citizens living in poverty. It is Africa’s fourth largest producer of gold, with gold accounting for one-fifth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2013, 32 tons of gold were produced, with US $390 million in revenues accruing to the government. This is likely to increase as new licenses are granted for companies to open new mines.

Despite this wealth in natural resources, people living in gold mining areas are among the poorest in the country, lacking access to basic services.

Information disclosed in the country’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) reports exposed the extreme disparities between companies’ high mining revenues and the low living standards of local communities. By law, mining companies in Burkina Faso were required to pay 0.5% of their revenues to local communities in which they operated. Using information from EITI reports, in 2014, civil society advocated for an increase to 1% of revenues in order to help communities finance improvements in healthcare, education, sanitation and clean water.

As a result of civil society protests and public pressure, members of Parliament visited the poorest mining areas and saw for themselves the high levels of poverty and impoverishment in mining communities, leading the Parliament’s Social Affairs and Sustainable Development Chairman to note that mining communities have “legitimate concerns” and that Parliament should not “overlook the interests of our people”. As a result, the Parliament was persuaded to act.

The new code, which includes the increased 1% transfer rate lobbied for by civil society, was approved by Parliament on June 26, 2015. The code requires that those funds be placed into a newly created fund to finance community development projects, another key ask of civil society groups.

Key Lessons:

  • The availability of data about mining revenues is critical for enabling civil society to ensure that local citizens are adequately benefiting from the natural resources being extracted from their communities.
  • Compelling, fact-based campaigns can lead to legal reforms, even in the face of industry and government resistance. Use of the media – both traditional and social – is important for mobilising public pressure to overcome the reluctance of vested interests to policy change.