Feeling left out

New research by International Alert into the socio-economic impact of mining in the Kayes region of Mali has revealed that a lack of involvement of local people in the operations is creating a growing risk of conflict.

The report, entitled The mountain gave birth to a mouse, found that although the local populations and their official and local authorities are regularly consulted about the mining operations, they do not play an active role in decision-making.

As of 2015, a total of 7,692 people were employed by the seven companies operating in the Kayes region, 96% of whom were Malian. However, the jobs and community projects on offer do not benefit all of the villages affected by the mining, which is creating tensions. 

In fact, most of the suppliers would be more accurately described as national rather than local, as very few of them originate from the Kayes region itself and fewer still from the communes and villages close to the mining sites.

Moreover, while most of the mines do contribute to the improvement of living standards in the surrounding communities – through companies' voluntary investments, most of the investment projects do not address the structural causes of poverty and exclusion, which lie at the root of many conflicts in Mali. 

"By favouring certain villages or groups over others, some funded initiatives are creating disputes between communities," said Francois Lenfant, the report's author.

Other negative consequences of industrial and artisanal mining in Mali include over population, increased school dropout rates – as the appeal of mining jobs lures young people away from education, and an increase in food and commodity prices. 

"As young people give up farming in search of mining jobs and more mining titles are awarded, agricultural land is increasingly being abandoned" says Lenfant, "which is leading to a drop in agricultural production." This is problematic, as agriculture still supports a larger number of people than mining in Mali.

Mining companies, however, remain convinced that they are contributing to the country's development by creating jobs, paying taxes and funding community projects.

The report makes a number of recommendations for improving community relations in Kayes and for ensuring that the mining industry in Mali contributes towards peace rather than conflict. This includes holding forums where all stakeholders involved in mining can engage in discussion and dialogue.

You can read our findings and recommendations in full here.