Lawless region’s gold mines targeted in Chad’s revenue hunt

Gold worth 57 billion CFA francs ($91 million) leaves Chad every week for Libya, Deby told state broadcaster Tele Tchad in an interview broadcast June 9.

“It’s huge and it has to stop,” Deby said during a visit to Kouri Bougoudi, a northern town where at least 100 small miners died in clashes over access to gold last month.

Deby’s estimate of the value of the gold smuggled out of the country dwarfs Chad’s official gold exports, which amounted to around $200 million in 2020, according to World Bank data.

Gold mining in the tri-border area between Chad, Libya and Niger has long posed a security problem for the administration of the capital, N’Djamena.

In early 2021, rebels based in Libya used the border region to launch an assault aimed at overthrowing Deby’s father, longtime leader General Idriss Deby. The repressive leader was killed during a visit to the frontline on April 20, according to the interim authorities.

Chad is still reeling from Deby’s death, while battling the global economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and regional instability.

A restructuring of its external debt under the common G20 framework that would free up much-needed resources – including oil revenues – has stalled as Chad and its creditors failed to agree on terms.

Deby pledged on Thursday to ensure Chadians benefit from the Kouri Bougoudi gold mines.

“We will set up mining, tax and customs services. Foreigners who want to mine here will need a permit to do so,” Deby said. “The state will have its share, while the province will be entitled to 5% of its natural resource revenues.”

He denied that the evacuation of the small miners by the security forces was an attempt by the authorities to hand over the mines to foreign actors. Previous attempts to industrialize Chad’s gold reserves failed due to insecurity and lack of infrastructure in the remote region, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Center for Global Analysis RHIPTO.

(By Katarina Hoije)

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