IAMGOLD Essakane SA – Gold Standards
Essakane is currently the largest known gold deposit in Burkina Faso, West Africa, making IAMGOLD Essakane SA an important economic player in the country.
The Essakane site was discovered by gold panners and artisanal miners in 1985 in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso. By 2007 the permit for the site was owned by a Canadian company, Orezone Resources, who were later acquired by IAMGOLD in 2009. Based in Toronto, IAMGOLD Corporation is a Canadian mining company that specialises in gold. In accordance with Burkinabe legislation, IAMGOLD Essakane SA, a mining company incorporated under Burkinabe law, was born with the acquisition of the Essakane mining site.
In 2009 IAMGOLD Essakane began construction of Essakane’s industrial complex, with commercial production beginning in 2010.
90% of the mine’s shares are held by the Canadian company IAMGOLD and 10% is owned by the State of Burkina Faso.
Mohamed Ourriban was appointed General Manager of the Essakane mine in 2018, following more than a decade with IAMGOLD. While it is clear he is pleased with the project as a business operation, talking to him you can see he is also excited about the contributions the mine is making to the local economy.
“Essakane represents a direct contribution of $725 million to the Burkinabe treasury from 2010 to 2019,” Ourriban tells us. “Since 2010, more than $1.8 billion in supplies have been generated by the Essakane mine supply chain from companies based in Burkina Faso. In terms of operations, the mine produced 409,000 ounces of gold in 2019, representing nearly 12 tons of gold, which is about 30% of the national gold production each year.”
As well as gold, the mine is also producing jobs, with the Essakane mine playing a role as one of the country’s most important employers.
Over 2,500 employees work at Essakane, of which 97% are national employees and 41% come from the Sahel region. Approximately 204 day-labourers are recruited each month and 100% of these workers come from the neighbouring communities.
“Our employees are our first and most important resource,” Ourriban insists.
Essakane’s impact goes beyond IAMGOLD Essakane’s direct employees, however, as the operation has also created approximately 1,300 indirect jobs through local subcontractors in the region.
Of course, this year IAMGOLD Essakane has had to rely on its staff more than ever in the face of the COVID-19 health crisis, but thankfully production has continued during the quarantine of Essakane’s operating area. At the same time, Essakane has made major contributions to helping the area through this crisis.
“We overcame this ordeal thanks to the mobilisation of all our stakeholders. We managed to remain fully operational, and some employees started working from home,” Ourriban says. “We have remained in solidarity with the national health policy and the donations and support from the Essakane mine in the fight against Covid-19 is estimated at nearly $700,000.”
Throughout the crisis, the company’s number one priority has been protecting its people, and despite the global health crisis IAMGOLD Essakane’s jobs have remained stable and its workforce has not been affected.
“Today, if our company has overcome the challenges, it is because of the men and women who are deeply attached to it and who, through their work and will, drive it forward,” Ourriban tells us. “I am particularly proud of our employees and of IAMGOLD to which they are proud to belong. The inspiring element of IAMGOLD Essakane SA is the genius, the commitment, the strength of its employees who, in a dynamic of continuous improvement, make it possible to take up various challenges.”
Those employees are driven by the strong philosophy and vision of IAMGOLD Essakane, which has a culture and foundations that differentiate it from its competitors.
“We create superior value for our stakeholders through responsible mining. Our vision of ‘ZERO INCIDENT’ remains a top priority in all our operations,” Ourriban says. “Indeed, we have and will continue to make continuous efforts for the health and safety of our employees and all stakeholders at our site, for those of our host communities and the protection of the environment.”
Indeed, sustainability has become something of a watchword for Essakane. It has adopted the principles of the “Towards Sustainable Mining” – TSM initiative.
To reduce fuel consumption (six million litres of fuel oil per year) and annual carbon emissions (approximately 18,500 tons per year), in March 2018 the mine inaugurated a new 15 MWp hybrid solar power plant on-site.
Essakane’s mining activities are audited by independent firms and IAMGOLD Essakane is the first company in Burkina Faso to have obtained a double certification ISO 14001-2015 for environmental management and OHSAS 18 001-2007 for health and safety management.
Because of the mine’s efforts, the Mining Association of Canada awarded it the environmental excellence award in 2015 and 2019.
“Our mine has also been awarded two prizes (in Human Rights and Environment) by several national NGOs and civil society organizations who launched the Burkinabe Civil Society CSR Award,” Ourriban says proudly.
A Key Contributor
Essakane’s contributions go far beyond its work as an employer, or the efforts it has made to reduce the mine’s environmental impact. It works closely with communities the help them in the ways that they ask for.
“In our community relations, we favour a participatory approach that takes into account the identification of projects by local populations and their involvement in their implementation,” Ourriban says.
One example of such a project is the work IAMGOLD Essakane has done with regards to clear water.
“Water in the arid environment of the Sahel has a major impact on people’s quality of life and socio-economic development,” Ourriban explains. “This is why we have been addressing this problem since the start of the mine and have made it one of our priorities.”
This is why, in partnership with the Government of Canada and the One Drop Foundation, IAMGOLD Essakane has financed the ECED-Sahel “Water and Sustainable Economic Growth in the Sahel” project for a total amount of approximately $13 million. The first completed phase covered the period 2016-2019 and is impacting the water supply of more than 54,000 people.
In addition, through its local purchasing policy, the Essakane mine has helped create and strengthen suppliers in the Sahel through the awarding of contracts for the delivery of goods, services, construction and security services. These structures create approximately 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Moving forward, Ourriban has a bold vision, both for the mine, and its contribution to the nation as a whole.
“Essakane has been doing very well since the start of production in 2010. Our goal is to continue our transformation and perform better than we have. In 2020, after a decade of gold production, much has already been done for the development of the Sahel and Burkina Faso by our mine,” Ourriban says. “Our vision is to generate shared value with all our stakeholders through diligent mineral resource management and knowledge transfer to our host communities. Through our operations, we intend to continue to develop a real legacy for current and future generations while minimising our footprint.”