Burkina Faso’s mines minister has denied an allegation by the president of Ghana that its northern neighbour had paid Russian mercenaries by giving them the rights to a mine.
“We have not granted any permit to a Russian company in southern Burkina,” Minister of Mines Simon Pierre Boussim told reporters on Tuesday, after a meeting with civil society groups that were concerned about the allegations.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo caused controversy by stating last week that Burkina Faso had hired mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group to help it fight armed non-state actors.
“I believe a mine in southern Burkina has been allocated to them as a form of payment for their services,” Akufo-Addo said, speaking to reporters alongside the United States’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US-Africa Summit.
Burkina Faso’s government has not formally confirmed or denied the allegation that it has made an agreement with Wagner, but it summoned the Ghanaian ambassador for a meeting on Friday to explain the president’s remarks.
“We made a list of all the exploitation or research permits for large industrial mines in the south, so they can see clearly that there is no hidden site,” Boussim said.
The Burkinabe government did recently award a new exploration permit to Russian firm Nordgold for a gold mine in Yimiougou, in the centre-north region, Boussim said, but the company has been active in Burkina Faso for more than 10 years.
Burkina Faso’s neighbour Mali hired Wagner last year to help it fight armed groups in the Sahel. The prospect of the group expanding its presence in Africa has troubled Western countries such as France and the United States, who say it exploits mineral resources and commits human rights abuses in countries where it operates.