B2Gold employees killed in Mali after attack on convoy

Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the…

Mali Unrest e1657020967190
Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the French Prime Minister at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, Mali, on February 24, 2019. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

B2GOLD said three employees were killed and several others injured in an attack on a company convoy in Mali about 75km west of Bamako, the country’s capital.

The Canadian miner said on Thursday the convoy consisting of employee vehicles and under Malian gendarme escort was on a transport route under increased security by the Malian armed forces.

“Initial reports have identified this tragic event as the result of an attack on the employee transport convoy, which included Malian gendarmerie vehicles in front and in the rear of the transport convoy,” the company said.

Injured employees and gendarmes have been transported to hospital.

The majority of terrorist attacks in Mali are in the north-east of the country. This particular event happened about 300km from Fekola, B2Gold’s 600,000 ounce a year gold mine. Although by no means close the mine, the event highlights tensions in the country amid a withdrawal of French troops last year.

Fekola is part of a gold complex that includes Barrick Gold’s Gounkoto-Loulo complex as well as the Sadiola mine owned by Allied Gold.

B2Gold said mining and processing activities at the Fekola Mine were not been impacted by this incident. The firm had “actively engaged” the Malian government on improving security along the transport route. “The company is working with the Malian government to understand further details of the attack,” it added.

Asked recently about growing insecurity and policy volatility in Mali, B2Gold CEO Clive Johnson said: “The good part about that is Fekola is also so important to the Mali government as well. Fekola’s contribution to Mali’s gross national product is huge – it’s around 10%.

“We are confident that the current government of Mali wants gold mining and they want more of it.”

West and Central Africa has suffered nine coups in countries, such as Mali, Guinea, Chad, and Burkina Faso in the last three years alone.

The political instability poses “a serious threat to progress in the region”, Andrew Irvine, director of legal and corporate engagement at the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) said at the Mining Indaba conference last week.

Mali is one of several West African countries battling a violent insurgency with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State that took root in Mali’s arid north in 2012 before spreading across the region, France24 reported in September after 49 civilians and 15 soldiers were killed in attacks on a military camp.

Attacks have worsened in Mali since the military seized power in two coups in 2020 and 2021, kicked out French forces and a United Nations’ peacekeeping mission, and teamed up with Russian private military contractor Wagner Group.

The United Nations recently withdrew from Mali, a development Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow said was a major setback for western influence in the country.

“The western world has a habit of when something doesn’t work you want to leave,” Bristow said in an interview with Miningmx in May. “This is a time in history when the West has to show commitment to support the process of finding the right civilian government.”

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