Mali is Africa’s third-largest gold producer, and neighboring Senegal now appears set for a gold mining boom. The BBC released a photo essay this week, “Senegal’s Gold Rush,” that is well worth a look.
Gold mining could certainly boost Senegal’s economy – in Mali, gold mining produced record-high budgetary revenues in 2010. Yet mining booms can also cause discontent among local populations. Oxfam wrote in 2007 that in Mali, “citizens have so far seen little benefit from mining revenues.” Riots have occurred in Malian mining areas.
Moreover, mining brings social change. In the mining areas of Senegal, the BBC reports, “One of the places more radically affected has been Diabougou which until recently was a tiny village and now is home to thousands of informal miners. But along with wealth, gold has brought prostitution to the very traditional and remote area.” A dramatic influx of unmarried men and foreign prostitutes could easily trigger substantial anger toward the government and the mining companies. Senegal’s “gold rush” may be a boon for the country, but the trend will bring problems as well.