Perenti workforce evacuates site after Burkina Faso attack

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The Boungou mine site. Image: Semafo.

An attack on a Semafo convoy travelling from the Bongou mine in Burkina Faso, West Africa has left its operations suspended since last week.

The convoy comprised five buses carrying Perenti’s workforce from African Mining Services (AMS), as well as employees of Canadian-based Semafo and its suppliers.

The buses, travelling between the Bongou mine site and Fada road, were being escorted by military police when they came under attack.

Semafo has confirmed there were 39 fatalities and 60 injuries and one remained unaccounted for from a total of 241 of its employees. The casualties included 19 fatalities and 26 injuries from Perenti’s AMS workforce.

Perenti has established counselling services for families and employees, while undergoing an evacuation process for all staff remaining at the Bongou mine via helicopter.

“We have seen the true human cost of the tragic events last week and it’s difficult to comprehend,” Perenti managing director Mark Norwell said.

“These were hardworking innocent people simply trying to provide a livelihood for their families. We are doing absolutely everything we can to support those affected and have mobilised additional personnel to assist in any way possible.”

Semafo president and chief executive Benoit Desormeaux said the company was devastated by the unprecedented attack.

“Our sincerest sympathies go out to the families and colleagues of the victims. Our priority is their safety, security and well-being,” Desormeaux said.

The Bongou operations would continue to remain suspended until Semafo has evaluated the new operating environment.

The scale and nature of the attack has made basic administration and logistics very difficult, according to Semafo.

Mako Gold, which operates the Niou project in Burkina Faso, stated the attack was mostly motivated by ‘foreign actors’.

The company extended its moral support to the Burkina Faso Government, which is “working hard to improve security in the east and north of the country.”

“It is important all investors and the wider business community appreciate that this activity is motivated largely by foreign parties and wider geopolitical challenges, and enjoys little to no support within Burkina Faso itself,” Mako stated.

Mako’s field staff were unaffected by the incident, with the majority of the company’s staff focussed on the Napié project in Côte d’Ivoire.

The company still plans to advance the Niou project and will evaluate security prior to deploying field staff.

Burkina Faso has been fighting a jihadist insurgency that has increased in the country since 2015.