Postcard from Burkina Faso by Bill Kennedy

In the early 1990s, on a trip to Moscow for the European Bank, I was given a personal tour of the Kremlin’s gold chamber where the most precious gold crowns, scepters and church utensils were manufactured for the Czar’s courts.   “Unbelievable” I exclaimed to my guide, “I had no idea you had created such treasures.” “Really?” he replied, “Why are you surprised? Russia is not Burkina Faso!”

At the time I had never been to Burkina Faso nor had I any idea of where it was located. Recently, however, working on a project with Prizma, I had an opportunity to visit this fascinating west African country. True, I did not find many art treasures in this country which has one of the lowest GDP per capita figures in the world but I did see some gold and this should surprise no one as Burkina Faso has recently become the fourth biggest producer of gold in Africa. It is also showing how gold mining can be planned in a socially responsible way.

Three days spent at the Yaramoko gold mine site in Burkina Faso revealed what positive steps can be taken by a socially responsible mining company even before mining starts. Roxgold, a Toronto based gold mining company, has been issued a mining exploration permit and undertaken some drilling/sampling but not yet started production. Nonetheless, it has commissioned and submitted to government authorities an environmental and social impact assessment and already begun to engage with and support schools, women’s groups and others in the vicinity of the project site. In addition, the company has initiated a two-year long internationally certified apprenticeship training program for young men and women of several villages in the area in construction skills and techniques such as welding and operating construction equipment. The students are expected to be hired by the company once construction of the mine begins.

Until that happens it will not be possible to see the gold that the Yaramoko gold mine site will produce. Like so much of Burkina Faso’s riches, it is not immediately visible to the naked eye. Actually, the same is true of restaurants in the capital city of Ougadougou. One of these is “Le Bistrot Lyonnais” where I had the pleasure of dining on my last visit. Its exterior is quite commonplace and you might pass it on the street without taking any notice. The menu, however, rivals those you would see in France. And the food is fit for a czar!


  • June 2015: Roxgold Announces Proposed $18.4 Million Investment by IFC. Upon closing of the private placement, IFC will hold approximately 8.2% of the issued and outstanding common shares of the Company on an undiluted basis.
  • April 2015: Roxgold announced the completion of two equity placements raising over C$60 million, and securing commitment for US$75 million in debt financing from Societe Generale and Credit Suisse, subsequently replaced with BNP Paribas.

Contributed by Dr. Bill Kennedy, while a Senior ESIA & Sustainability Advisor and Associate of Prizma. Bill has more than 35 years experience in the field of Environmentally Sustainable Development, and worked for international financial institutions, local, national, regional and international environmental agencies and organizations, bi-lateral development aid agencies, private firms and universities.  

2 Comments to Postcard from Burkina Faso by Bill Kennedy

  1. […] Postcard from Burkina Faso […]

  2. […] At the EBRD, I had an opportunity to work with Bill on numerous infrastructure projects ranging from roads to ports. Among other things, he taught me about the critical importance of meaningful stakeholder engagement in such developments. Later on, Bill and I had the opportunity to collaborate on numerous Prizma engagements ranging from sustainability reporting to monitoring of mining projects. Check out this Postcard from Burkina Faso by Bill Kennedy. […]

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