Annual Archive
19 March 2015

Tambao manganese mine: Lack of dialogue test between Pan African Minerals and local communities

19 March 2015

(Burkina-emine) – The Tambao deposit, discovered in 1959, is located in the Oudalan province, 15 km from  Markoye, capital of the municipality of the same name,  in the Sahel region, north-east of Burkina Faso. Initially estimated at 20 million tonnes of ore at a grade of 52% to 53% manganese and revalued at 100 million tonnes at the same grade, this deposit is considered to be one of the world’s largest manganese deposits (J.F. Machamer, 2002 ).

Just after the independences, Tambao deposit development was cited among the priorities of Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), but had long stumbled on a real lack of adequate infrastructures for the operations (electricity, water, housing and labor). The lack of a road, passable at all times and capable of supporting  the transport fleet needed to move the ore from Tambao  to Kaya (210 km) – the nearest town that is connected to the railway network in Burkina Faso – also been a major handicap.

Economic interest of the deposit

manganezThe Tambao deposit (~ 100 million tonnes grading 52% to 53% manganese) is one of the cryptomelane richest ore resources in the world (J. Ralph & I Chau, 2011). Cryptomelane is a potassium manganese oxide of formula: (K (Mn4 +, Mn2 +) 8O16 ).

All the oxidized deposit can be exploited to open pit.  Metallurgical ore processing will be done by simple particle size classification for 3/4 of the deposit, and by settling and screening for the remaining 1/4 (parts soiled by the kaolinite material, less rich, scree) the separation of chemical ore (containing more than 80% Mn02) from the fines will be by settling or attrition, followed by pneumatic or gravimetric magnetic treatment. Feasibility studies thus suggest the construction of a very simple enrichment plant. The ore transportation will be provided by Tambao to Abidjan railway line.

Because of the economic interest and quality of the deposit, the government of Burkina initiated the “Tambao Integrated Project” to fit in the mine operation with a vast development project including new railway (210 km)and road construction, railroad rehabilitation(Ouagadougou-Kaya), local communities relocation and job creation.

Eventful history of a deposit

Several mining companies have tackled the Tambao deposit without much success. From Brazilian Vale (allied to the Japanese Mitsui) to Saudi Wadi Al Rawda (allied to Weatherly Resources) (2007- 2008) through InterStar Mining (which carried out 6 months operations on the deposit in 1993) and Fompex consortium in 2004 have all tempted the project before giving up, mostly because of total lack of operations infrastructures.

It is ultimately the Indian General Nice Resources (GNR), which allowed the project to be revived by investing more than US $ 70 million(more than 35 billion FCFA) between 2010 and 2011.

GNR would have resumed exploration activities, completed feasibility study and initiated the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Granting Tambao deposit against a background of controversy

The history of Tambao deposit is marked by controversy. Since in 2010, GNR inherited an advanced project at the expense of Wadi Al Rawda which has yet invested more than US $ 2 million (about 1 billion FCFA ) in the exploration and the completion of its feasibility study.

And history repeats itself!

On August 11, 2012 Pan African Tambao, subsidiary of Pan African Minerals (PAM) TIMIS Group signed an agreement in the amount of about US$650 million (350 billion CFA) for the execution of the Tambao project.

Burkina Faso and Pan African Minerals committed when granting Tambao in a broader project of infrastructure development for the North of the country.

“the Operation of Tambao project is spread over the next three years and will require an investment of nearly US $ 1 billion,” said Frank Timis to Reuters, a third more than the cost amount (650 million)in 2012, after Jeune Afrique Economie.

The investment will be supported by three parties:  Frank Timis group, Dundee Corporation – a Canadian asset management company – and CD Capital – an investment fund specializing in natural resources, after Jeune Afrique Economie.

The granting of Tambao deposit to businessman Frank TIMIS to the detriment of GNR which had invested more than US $ 70 million (35 billion FCFA), validated some studies and opened population relocation process negotiation had raised many questions in Burkina Faso and the international mining sphere.

This second painful episode has dented the country’s image in the circle of mining actors. As a reminder, in 2013 GNR had assigned Burkina government before the “Chambre Internationale de commerce de Paris” (CIC) for breach of contract as did Wadi before.


Tambao Integrated Project

With a lifetime of more than twenty years, “the Tambao Integrated Project” (TIP) has three constituents.

Regarding the road and rail infrastructure, the (TIP) provides the following schedule of events:

• During the first year, PAM will export 1 million tonnes of manganese ore and to refurbish the existing railway between Ouagadougou and Kaya, and the construction of a road about 90 km dedicated to mining to deliver the ore to Kaya.

• In the second phase, PAM will export a minimum of 2 million tonnes of ore and extend the Kaya railway line Tambao to allow the establishment of an export corridor entirely by rail Tambao in Abidjan .

• Creation of Thousands of jobs including 3,000 for the first 03 years.

Production of Tambao mine is expected to reach 3 million tonnes per year with enhanced infrastructures.

Concerns and disappointments of Markoye inhabitants

May 14, 2014, the decree granting the operating licence of Tambao deposit was awarded to the Pan African Minerals subsidiary which began operations few months ago.

Since February 17, 2015 the mine observes a total shutdown of its operations following a demonstration of local residents of the project area. These inhabitants denounce an opaque management of the mine , dust and damage to road with the ore transport (on dirt road) to Kaya. The people in the vicinity of the mine are been regularly shaken by explosions on the site, they say.

The populations of the Municipality of Markoye and its 27 villages that fed a lot of hope on the mine now seem disillusioned. They feel excluded from the project.

According to JUDECOM (United Youth for Markoye Municipality Development), initiator of the February 17th protest march,  PAM company broke one’s promises.

In addition to the complaints mentioned above, there would be at about 40 to 50 employees on the site on February 17 according JUDECOM.

The environmental and social impact study of the project.

The environmental and social impact study should reconcile local populations and mine actors. For Tambao case, people rather remember  General Nice Resources (GNR). PAM approach to get them feel involve in the project was not much appreciated  and until  February 17, dialogue between PAM and the local population was not enough according JUDECOM.

The events of February 17, 2015

February 17, 2015, a march in protest was initiated to simply seek Tambao mine operation stoppage until further notice. Under the leadership of JUDECOM, Markoye populations, supported in their struggle by those of Gorom-Gorom  for more than 3,000 people worn out one’s shoe leather.

It’s deplorable that PAM camp  gatehouse located at 15 km from the mine site has been vandalized by  demonstrators. No act of vandalism was committed on mine facilities and the army has never been to secure the premises as speculated. After the departure of workers, protesters secure facilities until the arrival of the republican security company elements (CRS).

At Burkina emine, we appreciate the republican spirit of the people of Markoye and this is a big step that people understand that they are losing a lot in destroying corporation’s property.

It is important that the extractive industries give pride place to dialogue and transparency and more in the current difficult socio-political context of Burkina. One wonders more and more about how the environmental and social impacts studies are led in some mining projects and the role of the Burkina State in granting operating licences rejected by the community directly involved.



MachamerJ.F. 2002. Manganese: Past, present, future, and applied geology. Pages 95–101 in Industrial Minerals and Extractive Industry Geology. Edited by P.W. Scott and C.M. Bristow. London: The Geological Society,  Jeune Afrique Economie,
19 March 2015

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19 March 2015
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