Ba Aliou Coulibali

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Activist, Ba Aliou Coulibali

There isn’t a moment where I am not affected by what is happening in the extractive sector. Especially as my country, Mauritania, is a mining country. We have been exploiting iron and copper for over a half century. Two foreign companies are currently exploiting gold and produce about 15 tonnes of gold a year. With only 3 million inhabitants, I am shocked when I see that the rate of poverty in Mauritania is above 45%. Every time that I mention these figures to someone not from Mauritania they are stunned – indeed the situation is incomprehensible.

I was really affected by a visit that I made to the site of a Mauritanian mining company, SNIM. It’s supposed to be a company that respects standards, but when I went to visit the site I saw that the overwhelming majority of workers – and those who do the most painful and risky work – are subcontracted, underpaid and do not benefit from any health or sanitation coverage. The employers and companies do not hesitate to get rid of the workers for the slightest of things, such as if they are ill. Every day these workers see gold pass through their fingers and with the amount this sector makes it really struck me to see their living conditions: the lack of comfort, lack of growth and the lack of even minimum standards.

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