Captain Ibrahim Traoré inaugurated the construction of a gold refinery in November 2023. Photo / Reuters

Burkina Faso, Africa's fourth-biggest gold producer, has suspended exports of the precious metal from artisanal mining in a bid to "better organise" the sector, the mines minister announced on Wednesday.

The decision came into effect on Tuesday said minister Yacouba Zabre Gouba with the junta-led government looking "to clean up the sector and ... to better organise the commercialisation of gold and other precious minerals".

Transitional military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore, who took power after a 2022 coup, announced in November that gold, the nation's main mineral resource , had also become its leading export.

Burkina Faso has 17 industrial gold mines, but five are closed due to a militant insurgency that spilled over from neighbouring Mali in 2015 and has left more than 17,000 civilians and soldiers dead. Two million people have been displaced.

'Fuel terrorism'

Traore said last year that "a lot of gold leaves Burkina fraudulently, and this moreover helps to fuel terrorism".

The mining sector accounts for 14.3% of state revenue, according to data from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

But gold production slid from 66.8 t onnes in 2021 to 57.6 tonnes in 2022, a 13.7 percent drop.

Authorities traditionally struggle to control the artisanal sector which, the mines ministry says, produces an additional 10 tonnes of gold a year.

Mining site explosion

In February 2022, at least 59 people were killed in southwestern Burkina Faso after a stockpile of dynamite exploded at an artisanal gold mining site.

Last November, the government launched construction of the country's first refinery for gold, with a planned annual production capacity of 150 tonnes of 99.99% pure gold -- or about 400 kilos a day.

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