Now in its third year of implementation, the Global Environment Facility-funded planetGOLD Burkina Faso project has ramped up activities in the component related to access to finance. The planetGOLD Burkina Faso project is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and executed by the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) in partnership with the “Direction General” of Environmental Preservation.
Recently, the project held the first Access to Finance workshop of its kind for the benefit of mining communities marginalized by traditional financial systems such as banks and microfinance institutions. Component 2 of the planetGOLD Burkina Faso project focuses on assisting artisanal gold miners with obtaining access to formal finance so they have the means to improve their operations. There are two primary objectives that fall under this component, namely:
- Facilitating miners' access to formal gold supply chains, in partnership with gold buyers and industrial users and;
- The design and implementation of a revolving fund to demonstrate the ability to support the ASGM sector to gain better access to finance.
Traditionally, artisanal gold miners have been excluded from most forms of formal financing from financial institutions because they lack the expected requirements such as an income statement, proof of employment, collateral, documented financial history, and other materials that provide confidence to the lender that repayment will occur. This is due to a variety of factors but many stem from a lack of formal mineral rights and permitting from governmental institutions and a lack of reporting systems that would otherwise support the formulation of an attractive business model for investment. Thus, the AGC and planetGOLD Burkina Faso are working towards the establishment of a revolving fund hosted by a financial institution within Burkina Faso, which will allow artisanal gold miners to gain access to the finances needed to professionalize and formalize their mining operations. The revolving fund will provide loans to miners that meet the requirements set forth by the fund’s governing principles and the institution, and the finance provided will aid in the procurement of mercury-free processing technologies and other items and services needed for a formal mining operation.
To facilitate this process, an awareness workshop was organized by the planetGOLD Burkina Faso team on 15 June 2021 for 15 male artisanal miners, who are also pit owners (operators of a mining shaft) in the Dano region. The workshop focused on four specific topics, designed to educate the miners on the administrative and financial requirements needed to access formal finance:
- inform the artisanal miners on the process of obtaining credit, the banker's decision criteria, and the conditions of a loan;
- inform the artisanal miners on the need for them to keep records;
- train artisanal miners on how to assess their financing needs and structure it in a bankable manner;
- train artisanal miners in the use of the record-keeping tool designed by planetGOLD Burkina Faso for better monitoring and documentation of activities.
The workshop began with introductions by three members from the planetGOLD Burkina Faso team. First, the Artisanal Gold Council’s Country Representative and Project Manager, Anna Bugmann shared her opening remarks, followed by the Project Coordinator, Alizèta Ouédraogo and the Investment Specialist, Janvier Dabiré.
The workshop was not a high-level presentation, but rather, a series of interactive working sessions designed to foster open communication between the pit owners, and the project team. A variety of activities, such as group work, and discussions around the four main access to finance topics were held throughout the day. The workshop activities allowed participants to reflect on appropriate ways to assess their investment needs with the main goal being to access formal finance via financial partners in the near future. To achieve this objective, the artisanal miners practiced answering the following questions in each of their groups:
- What are the equipment capital needs for their activities?
- What are the working capital requirements for their activities?
- To what extent are they able to estimate these two categories of financing needs?
These questions are the primary ones asked by financial institutions when applying for a bank loan or other financing scheme in Burkina Faso.
At the end of the group work sessions, the pit owners learned about the criteria that must be met in order to apply for and potentially receive financing from a bank or applicable financial institution. The first criterion is that the mining operation must be formalized, which means at the very least, the artisanal miner must hold a formal mining identity card issued by ANEEMAS (the National Agency for the Supervision of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Operations). In addition, the mining site must be formally registered as an artisanal exploitation area. Second, a bank account must be opened as it will verify (i) the average income (which may be measured monthly, quarterly, or annually) (ii) the age of the account holder (iii) the ability to make a personal contribution (downpayment) as upfront capital may be needed to be eligible for a loan, and (iv) the level of documented personal debt of the miner applying for financing.
The final working session consisted of the presentation and introduction of the artisanal miners’ booklet being piloted by the project. This booklet allows artisanal miners to record their various daily operational expenses and consists of four sections:
- Section 1: Sociodemographic information of the artisanal miner
- Section 2: Assessments of equipment held by the artisanal miner
- Section 3: Evaluation of the production of the artisanal miner
- Section 4: Recording of the artisanal miner's expenses
Feedback from the miners during the coming months on their usage of the booklet and areas for improvement will be incorporated into the next version.
The workshop was well received by the artisanal miners that participated, and certificates of participation were presented at the end of the final working session. Participant and pit owner, Michel Dabiré shared his impressions of the workshop and the planetGOLD Burkina Faso project:
I am very happy. This is what we need. Even when the state has nothing to give us but allows us to benefit from this type of training, it helps us, and it makes us happy. It's already very good. It's an example. Some projects come in and don't even know what's going on on the ground and they want the gold. I think when you come to help someone, you first try to understand them and that's what this project is doing. So we are very happy with this way of doing things, and we want it to continue. Michel Dabiré, pit owner and workshop participant
The Inclusion of Women
However, while the workshop was a success amongst the 15 men pit owners that participated, there was a noted absence of women pit owners. The planetGOLD Burkina Faso team would like to report that in this first “warm up” workshop on finance, women did not participate because very few women own pits within the targeted mine site of Gnikpiere. Due to this, the project will hold a secondary workshop on access to finance at the end of July dedicated to women who are present in the gold production chain. In particular, women who are active in gold processing sheds, even though they do not own pits, will be invited to attend. This upcoming workshop will focus not only on access to finance but also, on the risks associated with the use of mercury during processing. Specific attention will be placed on finding economically incentivizing solutions to move away from mercury, towards mercury-free processing methods, which will be introduced by the project towards the end of the year.
No miner will be left behind in the move to mercury-free processing! which is why further workshops and socialization events amongst the mining communities in Dano are planned for the next quarter.
To learn more about this workshop, and to see it in action, check out the workshop video: