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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs