News / Africa

Getting at the Gold in Southern Sierra Leone

Hundreds of artisanal miners sift the gold-rich mud in open pits in Baomahun, southern Sierra Leone
Hundreds of artisanal miners sift the gold-rich mud in open pits in Baomahun, southern Sierra Leone

Multimedia

Audio
Fid Thompson

Better known for its diamond fields, gold exploration and mining in Sierra Leone is on the increase. The British company, Cluff Gold, has announced it will build a mechanized gold mine in the southern Kangari hills after finding large deposits of gold in the rock. Several hundred local miners also pan for gold in the area.

Bobo Simbo stands thigh-high in a pool of orange water, sifting the mud for traces of gold dust. He swirls the tin pan and a tiny amount of gold glints in the sunlight. He spits in the pan and swirls again, gathering the precious dust in a small depression in the pan.

Simbo has been mining here for the past two years. He is one of many who have flocked to the Kangari hills in southern Sierra Leone to find small fortunes in the hard graft of alluvial gold mining.

He makes enough money from the sale of gold dust to take care of his wife and three children. Simbo says the guarantee of a daily profit makes the back-breaking work worthwhile.

Simbo says if he works hard, he can get two or three carats of gold every day. He says, within a week that adds up to a nice sum.

Simbo says he can make up to $100 a week, an impressive take-home in one of the poorest countries in the world.

In the past few years, Baomahun town has mushroomed as people rush to mine the land before it is taken over by the British mining company, Cluff Gold, whose 137 kilometer concession includes the artisanal mining pits.

Local miners like Simbo do not pay leases for the land or mining royalties. They are small-scale workers, digging in surface pits which have already been mined. Even so, many rely on panning for gold to survive.

Baomahun's chief, Joseph Kowa, says artisanal gold mining has transformed the town.

Kowa says the local mining is responsible for the town's rapid population increase. He says, because diamond mining in Kono, Kailahun and Tongo districts is slowing down, people are turning from diamonds to gold.

Kowa says, unlike many jobs in Sierra Leone, the profits to be had from artisanal gold mining are steady. He says, at the end of the day, you are sure to make at least three or four dollars, to sustain your family.

Gold is also fueling the local economy. At the central market in Baomahun, business is booming. Women sit with vegetables, fruits and dried fish heaped in high piles. Cluff Gold built the market when they began exploring for gold here in 2005.

The Baomahun license area is estimated to hold up to two million ounces of gold. But it is not easy to get at. Specks of gold embedded in the mountain rock can only be extracted by blasting and crushing the rock to powder.

Senior Administrator for Cluff Gold, Clifford Patnelli, says mining for gold in the hard rock will be a first for Sierra Leone.

"It is a significant find within Sierra Leone because it has never happened before in Sierra Leone," Patnelli said. "Because most of the gold deposits found in Sierra Leone, which had been worked on, were from the alluvial deposits. So what we are concentrating on here we will develop gold coming from the source rock and in Sierra Leone this is the first of its kind."

Patnelli says Cluff's agreement with the government is in line with Sierra Leone's new Mines and Minerals Act that requires companies to invest one tenth of annual revenue in local communities.

But local gold miners are worried about the future. When the mine starts operations, they will have to move. Many hope they will get jobs at the new gold mine.

Saidu Kamara supports his family by working in one of the small pit mines inside the  Baomahun site.

Kamara says, if the mine doesn't employ him, he will suffer.

Though the majority of Cluff Gold's employees will be Sierra Leonean, the mine will rely more on machines than manpower. The company will hire about 500 employees and plans to start processing gold by 2012.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video Empire State Building Highlights Cecil the Lion

People gathered in streets and rooftops in Manhattan to see the image highlights that covered 33 floors of the building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs