Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hidden Treasure? In Search of Mali’s Gold Mining Revenues

Event Title: Hidden Treasure? In Search of Mali’s Gold Mining Revenues
Sponsor: Oxfam America and the World Bank
Location: The World Bank
Date: February 23rd, 2007
Time 10:00 am- 12:00 pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 25
Intern Attending: Evan Davies

Featured Speakers: Senior Policy Advisor Mr. Keith Slack; Author and Researcher Ms. Rani Parker; Ambassador Abdulaye Diop of Mali; Mr. Rashard Kaldany Representative from World Bank; Mr. Madani Diallo Country Manager for AngloGold.

This Oxfam and World Bank event centered on a recent Oxfam report about the gold mining business in Mali. Panelists were allotted 15 minutes each to give their impressions of the report. The first to speak was Keith Slack, a senior policy advisor. He broadly discussed the issue of mining in Mali, and then focused on the gold industry. Revenue accrued from the booming gold mining business lacks transparency, thus making it difficult to monitor fund allocation. Similar to the diamond business, there are fears that high-level officials are gaining wealth from the increase in gold value, but not redistributing the riches throughout the economy to help alleviate poverty and promote development.

Next to speak was the primary author and researcher of the report, Rani Parker. She discussed the lack of government transparency in Mali. Neither the finances of the gold business, nor the mining codes are disclosed to the public. Even when Parker was allowed access to the clandestine documents, the complex jargon proved difficult to decipher. She claimed that the people should have the right to access these records, and all business arrangements should be open to the public.

Mali Ambassador Abdulaye Diop was pleased that the report came out, and he made it very clear that he wanted to work with everyone on the board to help his countrymen and women. The gold mining industry is very important, he says, accounting for 14% of GDP and over half of Mali’s exports. To familiarize the public with the industry, the government will try to implement new programs that will educate the public on mining laws. They will also put pressure on the mining industry to do a better job of making their financial records more available.

A representative from the World Bank, Rashard Kaldany, next voiced the need to reduce the mining code’s complexity, allowing more people to comprehend it. Also, because of red tape surrounding the gold industry, people are enticed to smuggle out the precious mineral. Ending on a positive note, Kaldany noted that there are several regional test operations underway with goals of strengthening the relationship between the mining business and the government.

Last to speak was Mr. Madani Diallo, the country manager for AngloGold. Speaking on behalf of the gold mining business, he explained that the industry does make their financial records transparent, only that they are written in French. However, while French is the nation’s official language, only 25% of the population speaks it. Diallo claims that their poor transparency reputation is undeserved; by releasing documents in French they are simply following official protocol. He cited two meetings a year discussing the finances of the gold business where one can learn whatever one wants about the business and its finances. But regardless of disagreements, he aims to build a positive synergy with the state and public by heeding their concerns and making business finances more accessible.

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