The involvement of some Western countries in Mali is being framed in the mainstream media as a humanitarian initiative, but some are suggesting that the sudden influx of military support is due to the wealth of natural resources in the country.
Though Mali ranks among the 25 poorest nations in the world, it is the third largest producer of gold in Africa, next to South Africa and Ghana. It is estimated that in 2011 the country generated more than 1 per cent of global gold production.
Sheridan College Political Science professor Paul Angelini says he wouldn’t be surprised if coveted natural resources were an influence in the military influx. “
I don’t think Mali is any different than any other African country,” Angelini says, citing the ongoing genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example of a country exploited for minerals used in Western technologies, yet embroiled near-constant civil warfare.
“It’s just like people say, ‘If Iraq’s major export were broccoli, do you think the United States would be there’?” says Angelini. “It’s the same with Mali… you don’t see anyone wanting to invade a country who’s major export is agricultural products”.
The biggest investment firm in the country is Randgold Resources, which sees more than 60 per cent of its revenues coming from Mali mines. On its website it cites “major discoveries to date” as including a 7.5 million ounce deposit in Morila, Southern Mali, and a cumulative 12.5 million ounce deposit in Yalea and Gounkoto, Western Mali.
The company is based in the small UK Crown Dependency of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy. Jersey hosts as a large investment and economic base for a wealth of conglomerates, perhaps due to the island’s status as an independent country, protected by the UK military, and shares a ‘special relationship‘-and free trade agreement-with the EU. Randgold’s stocks are traded freely across the globe, and its mines influence the price of gold on these markets.
Mali is also host to a wealth of other marketable natural resources, including diamonds, uranium, and precious stones. Potential investors are already exploring these deposits, which includes Jersey-based Canadian Heritage Oil Company.
It is estimated that the Mali government receives 20 per cent of its revenue from mining, yet according to the CIA factbook has failed to ratify or comply with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking-a massive problem for the country. Though the low levels of human rights are well documented constant, mining involvement in the country continues to rise.