Russia’s Nordgold Expands Mining Operations in Burkina Faso Amid Rising Attacks on Facilities

On May 1, 2020, Russian mining company Nordgold acquired the Niou gold mining project in Burkina Faso from Australian mining operator, Mako Gold, for $700,000.  The acquisition builds on Nordgold’s existing operations in a country that has been beset with security problems and where some other companies have been withdrawing.  The company’s other operations are at the Bissa-Bouly and Taparko gold mines.

The expansion of Russian activity has the potential also to increase Russian mercenary presence in the region.  Due to continued challenges protecting mining operations from attacks, several Western African states, including Burkina Faso, have called for Russian military assistance to counter these groups. In 2018, the two countries signed an agreement for counterterrorism cooperation in the region, although no concrete steps towards engagement appear to have been taken since its signing. 

There have been numerous reports over the past several years of private Russian military contractors, such as Wagner Group, becoming more active in Africa.  While Burkina Faso has yet to see the presence of Wagner Group or similar private military companies, Wagner has reportedly been present in West and North Africa, for example, in MaliGuineaSudan, and more notably Libya and the Central African Republic. The Russian security group RSB has also reportedly been active in the region, in Nigeria and Libya.

It is worth noting that, in March 2020, Nordgold posted a job opening on LinkedIn for a Security Director to operate as part of the Bissa-Bouly mining operation.