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

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs