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Sawadogo’s lifelong mining experience helps guide a Burkinabe community to success



  • Aboubacar Démé
    Field and Community Relations Officer, planetGOLD Burkina Faso


It’s safe to say that Abdoul Salam Sawadogo started at the bottom and worked his way up.

The 57-year-old Burkinabe began his career in Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (EMAPE) in 1988 when he took on back-breaking underground work, digging extraction shafts, at the Bouda site in Passoré province. Thirty-five years later he finds himself the owner of extraction pits at artisanal sites in several provinces, and second in charge of the management committee at Gnikpière where planetGOLD Burkina Faso’s pilot project is located.    

The planetGOLD Burkina Faso project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and executed in partnership by the Artisanal Gold Council and the Government of Burkina Faso.

Abdoul Salam Sawadogo
M. Sawadogo receiving a certificate of participation for the miner's booklet training from Anna Bugmann

Back to Abdoul, the devoted father of six children paid his dues as he moved up through the mining sector. After a few years at Bouda, he visited sites in the provinces of Boulgou (Bittou-Cinkanssé area), Yatenga, Mouhoun, Comoé (Moussobadougou area), Tuy (Houndé) before settling in Loba province in the Southwest in 1998.

In this gold mining region, he started on the site of the village of V3 where he helped set up the Comptoir Burkinabè de Matières Premières (CBMP). He was also involved in organizing comptoirs (gold buying shop) in Kampti and Dissin and established the first association of artisanal miners in the Southwest region in 2004. In this region, he operated several sites, including, Mèmère, V7, Gogoba, Nahèrèdon, Gombèlèdougou, Tankiédougou, Nabéré, Nabalé, Kampti, Oronkua, Dissin among others.

With 35 years of experience behind him, he became a founding member of the cooperative of mining artisans in Loba province, where he helped to organize artisanal gold mining efforts. After two terms as president of this provincial organization, he took on an advisory position. He also acts as a consultant for other sites, advising operators on best practices to ensure streamlined operations.

With his extensive experience in the Southwest region, he was appointed by the mayor's office to co-manage the Gnikpière site from 2018, the year the site was discovered.

At the Gnikpière site, a committee of 12 members oversees operational activities and advises artisanal miners on complaints and/or claims. The committee investigates complaints and negotiates with complainants to achieve amicable outcomes.

Thanks to training provided by the Artisanal Gold Council via the planetGOLD Burkina Faso project, Sawadogo is able to teach workers the techniques of non-polluting production, health, safety and environment.

With the active involvement of all those responsible for the site, the committee is supported by the entire village, the administrative authorities, and the technical services of the town. It has also been recognized by the National Agency for the Supervision of Artisanal and Semi-Mechanized Mining (ANEEMAS), the prefect of the commune, the town hall, and the Police.

Mr. Sawadogo, whose nickname "Naaba" means Chief in French, brings considerable expertise to the organization and supervision of workers despite the many difficulties encountered. To help mitigate potential problems, Mr. Sawadogo – a longstanding student of the Qu’ran – often holds Muslim prayer sessions. Mr. Sawadogo’s combination of professional expertise and spiritual guidance, ensures the smooth operation of activities and the peaceful coexistence of all those involved on the site.

Mr. Sawadogo has great hope that the planetGOLD project will benefit his community immensely. As a project champion, he is delighted with the project’s potential success and promises to take whatever steps are required to make this project a good example for other sites. He is patiently waiting for planetGOLD’s support of the formalization of the site to ensure dependable management of the mercury-free processing system. A memorandum of understanding has been established for this purpose between the two parties.

Processing artisanal ore for gold without mercury may be challenging but, according to Mr. Sawadogo, the operation of the pilot unit will be extremely beneficial for the area.

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