Reports reveal that jihadists are seizing control of a large number of illegal gold mines in eastern Burkina Faso and gaining access to the estimated two billion dollar illicit gold trade, putting more Christian lives at risk.
The government has forbidden mining near conservation areas. However, from mid-2018, extremists have been using military dominance in the Sahel region to overrule government directives and keep the mines open.
One former miner states that, “They were more heavily armed than the soldiers …They controlled everything.” Miners say that the militants hide out among them and threaten anyone who exposes them with death.
The United Nations has previously warned of the risk of armed extremists linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State exploiting the mineral wealth of the Sahel region in order to fund jihadi violence.
On 6 November, 15 Christians were among the 39 killed in south-east Burkina Faso when a mining convoy transporting miners was attacked. There have also been reports of hundreds of small-scale mines being targeted in robberies and kidnappings. Around 2,200 informal mines identified in a government survey in 2018 are, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project , within 25km of sites where militants have attacked mines.
Thousands of Christians, some of them miners, have fled the area to escape being slaughtered or kidnapped by the extremists. At least 166 Christians have been murdered in Burkina Faso so far this year.