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Cablegate: Burkina Faso: Esth Developments in Mining, Wildlife

VZCZCXRO8853
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHOU #0427/01 1411706
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201706Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY OUAGADOUGOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3701
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 0053
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0130

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OUAGADOUGOU 000427

AF/W EMILY PLUMB, JASON HUTCHISON
OES/E/ETC CHRISTINE DAWSON
DEPT PASS EPA FOR OIA/MARTIN DIEU, OPPT/CHARLIE AUER

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EAGR EMIN SENV GH UV CH TW
SUBJECT: BURKINA FASO: ESTH DEVELOPMENTS IN MINING, WILDLIFE
CONSERVATION, ECO-TOURISM AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

1. SUMMARY: During a May 9-14 mission to Burkina Faso, the Regional
Environmental Officer (REO) met with Government of Burkina Faso
(GOBF) officials (Bureau of Mines and Geology, Ministry of
Environment, National Tourism Board) and the International Institute
for Water and Environmental Engineering to discuss government
initiatives for mining, wildlife conservation, eco-tourism, and
environmental education. END SUMMARY.

Mining
------

2. According to Mr. Pascal Deindere, Director General (DG), of the
Bureau of Mines, the 2004 mining code revisions mandate best
management practices for all industrial mining concessions. All
industrial mining projects must be developed under the guidelines of
a comprehensive activity plan that includes environmental impact
assessments and mine closure plans with site rehabilitation
projects. Mr. Pascal spoke of the necessity for balanced regulation
to both promote international investment in the mining sector, and
ensure that mining companies operate as good environmental stewards.


3. The DG spoke positively of progress made on the industrial mining
front, but described the artisanal gold mining sector as difficult
and complicated. Artisanal or informal mining occurs in more than
200 sites throughout the country, and is destructive to the
landscape/habitat, hazardous to human health, and remains outside
the realm of government regulation. The lack of regulatory capacity
is cause for concern because use of mercury and arsenic is
widespread throughout the informal gold mining sector. The DG said
the illegal chemicals are supplied in Ghana by the Chinese and cross
border mercury trafficking continues due to lack of border
surveillance, inspection and control.

4. On May 15, EconOff traveled to Essakane, one of the country's
largest artisanal mining sites located near the Burkina Faso- Niger
border. The vast site was covered with hundreds of piles of dirt dug
from open pits ranging from 50 to 100 meters in depth. Children and
livestock were running through the site while miners either worked
deep in pits or knee-deep in muddy water. Workers admitted to using
drugs in order to have the courage and stamina to carry on their
daily tasks. They also claimed that severe health problems plagued
the community primarily in the form of respiratory ailments caused
by inhalation of the dust. Despite confirmation of mercury use by
Burkinabe officials, workers refused to admit to use of illegal
chemicals in their mining practices.

5. COMMENT: The use of mercury threatens the health of those who
come in direct contact with the heavy metal, as well as potentially
contaminating groundwater and food supply (agricultural, domestic
livestock, and wild species) adjacent to these mining sites. The
GOBF should be encouraged to develop and enforce legislation to
control the illegal trafficking and use of mercury in artisanal gold
mining operations and should also be encouraged to engage their
counterparts in Ghana on this issue. Although the GOBF has developed
a plan to deal with illegal mining that includes site reclamation
and reeducation of the local population, they lack the capacity,
expertise and financial resources to carry it out in the foreseeable
future. END COMMENT.

Wildlife
--------

6. The Director of Ecology for Flora and Fauna, Mr. Rigobert Bayala,
was happy to discuss conservation programs, and acknowledged the
need for improved capacity for national park and reserve management,
game law enforcement, and public education for increased awareness
and cooperation to prevent illegal hunting and reduce human/wildlife
conflict. The Director noted human/wildlife conflict to be a
growing concern and on May 7, 2008 the local press, "Le Pays,"
reported ongoing human/elephant encounters that resulted in the
deaths of several elephants after a small troop of elephants took up
residence in the near three villages in the Tiefora region. The
Director stressed the need for improved education and community
cooperation for successful management of human/wildlife conflict.
Mr. Bayala is now on a trans-boundary mission to evaluate the
regional eco-tourism potential of the Arli National Park, sharing
borders with Benin and Niger.

7. COMMENT: Historically, Burkinabe grazing livestock have been
allowed to cross into Panjeri National Park (Benin) causing stress
on the wildlife habitat and potentially impacting the park's
eco-tourism business according to Beninese wildlife managers. It
will be interesting to learn if errant grazing herd animals will
impact the desired results of the tripartite trans-boundary mission.
The final report is scheduled to be delivered at the beginning of

OUAGADOUGO 00000427 002 OF 002


June 2008 and Mr. Bayala said he would be glad to share information.
END COMMENT.

Eco-Tourism, Including Role of Taiwan
-------------------------------------

8. Mr. Souleman Ouedraogo, Director General (DG) of the Office of
National Tourism for the Ministry of Tourism, said the GOBF is very
concerned with Burkina Faso's image in the international eco-tourism
sector. He was happy to discuss the upcoming and expanded
(increased from 9 to 15 countries) fifth annual International
Tourism and Hotelier convention scheduled for September 2008 as well
as highlight numerous eco-tourism attractions in Burkina Faso. When
asked, he seemed to be aware of the impact artisanal mining has on
the landscape, less aware of the connection between good
environmental stewardship and the positive impact it can have on the
eco-tourism sector. He was reluctant to discuss the potential
damage that irresponsible mining practices have on human health and
eco-system health and ultimately the image of the eco-tourism
sector. After further discussion, he noted the need for greater
awareness and involvement, if only to be given a chance to review
initiatives for consideration of potential linkages to the
eco-tourism sector/image.

9. When asked about Chinese influence in the country, the DG said
Burkina Faso could see increased Chinese investment in agriculture,
health and perhaps infrastructure. Mr. Ouedraogo also mentioned
Taiwanese investment in a 2 billion CFA (US 2.36 million),
industrial and eco-tourism center near Tenkodogo which is scheduled
to be completed in December 2008. The center will include
hydroelectric power generation, rice crop production, fish meal
production for export, guest bungalows, swimming facilities and a 3
kilometer artificial beach. (COMMENT: Burkina Faso is currently one
of only four countries in Africa with diplomatic ties with Taipei.
Investment from mainland China into Burkina Faso will likely remain
limited until Ouagadougou shifts diplomatic recognition from Taipei
to Beijing. END COMMENT.)

Environmental Education
-----------------------

10. The International Institute for Water and Environmental
Engineering (2IE) is a 40 year old institution dedicated to
education, training and research. The institute offers education
and certification at the bachelors, masters and PHD levels with
programs in water, energy, the environment and infrastructure. The
institute receives support from various sources including the
European Community, Switzerland and Canada. Mr. Paul Ginies,
Director General (DG), and Mr. Amadou Maiga, Deputy Director General
(DDG), are committed to expanding the programs at the institute,
while at the same time developing education, research and
professional capacity in Africa. The DG and the DDG are interested
in developing collaborative efforts for improved potable water
development, water collection and transport systems, remote sensing,
renewable energy (Bio-mass), renewable construction materials,
sanitation and solid waste management. (COMMENT: The institution
shows promise as another avenue for USG outreach in general, and
specifically for increased outreach into primarily Muslim
communities in Burkina Faso and the region. U.S. English Language
Fellow (ELF) professors have been assigned to 2IE for the last three
years and will be in place for one more. Given the success of this
program, post has requested a bi-lingual Fulbright position for
2009-2010 academic year.) END COMMENT.)

JACKSON

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