Hélène et Thomas Chassaing fr / en

Minerals, Fertilizer, Gold


Everyone knows that Africa has a richness of minerals beneath its surface. During my bicycle trip from Dakar to Ouagadougou to make a sort of inventory of West African agriculture, I was a witness to it on several occasions.

The first time was after leaving Dakar, in the Nyayes region which is an important vegetable growing region for the whole country. By chance one week-end I ended up at the door of an enterprise that is part of one of the biggest industries in the country (Les Industries Chimiques du Sénégal): phosphate mining. Although by far the largest part of the production of phosphoric acid is exported to their Indian partners, a small part goes to the manufacture of fertilizer at a factory in Dakar. I had an opportunity to meet one of the officials who gave me permission to follow him for two hours during his inspection work.

One of the last times was in the south of Burkina Faso where I was taking pictures of Michael, a young man harvesting peanuts on his little parcel. He told me of a “gold mining site” just a few kilometers from here. Intrigued, I went there the next morning. Here is a paragraph from the diary I kept throughout my travels.

“Fofora, is a real gold miner’s village. Houses rapidly thrown up and just as quickly torn down if a good vein is discovered elsewhere. Numerous bars and shops of all sorts where you can spend your instantly acquired money, and at the entrance, a police station where I went to get acquainted. I discovered an officer and his aide. I played the idiot a little bit talking about my passion for westerns, but not disguising my real occupation (as photojournalist) and they agreed to meet me early the next day in order to take some photos of the gold mining operations.”