Important supplies of high quality manganese have been identified at Tambao, northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali and Niger. The potential has been estimated at 20 million tonnes at least, some estimates go as far as 50 million tonnes. It is, obviously, in the interest of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, to develop these resources in order open the region and improve the standard of living of its population. Proper economic development will attract Foreign Direct Investments. However, so far little or no progress has been made regarding the development of the mine and into the Sahel region.
A first attempt to develop these important resources was made by a Nambian/Dubai consortium which signed an agreement with the Burkina government (Ministry of Mining) on 3 April 2007 on the exploitation of the Tambao manganese supplies. A feasibility study, carried out by Weatherly as a contractual obligation, was presented to the Burkina government in September 2008. However, from that moment on the Burkina government had refused, without giving any reasons for its decision, to recognize the rights of the consortium, and initiated discussions with other interested parties with regard to the exploitation of the Tambao manganese. In view of this situation Weatherly in Augustus 2011 initiated an arbitration procedure at the Tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris. The ICC Tribunal decided in October 2012 to go ahead with the arbitration, in spite of objections raised by the Burkina government with regard to the competence of the ICC Tribunal in this case. The ICC Tribunal issued an explicit warning to the Burkina government that any further implementation of the agreement of the exploitation of the Tambao mine would be entirely at the own risk of the government, pending the outcome of the arbitration procedure.
In spite of the signed agreement with the Namibian/Dubai consortium a new tender was issued in 2010 for the development of Tambao. Two interested parties presented themselves, Mitsui/Vale (Japan/Brazil) and GNR India/Hong Kong. The tender was won by the GNR, a MoU was signed in October 2010 between GNR and the Burkina government (represented by Mining Minister Cisse), and within the contractual obligations of the MoU work started on a number of feasibility studies and Environment Impact Assessments. GNR has met all its obligations with regard to the studies concerned (road, train and environmental) and actively engaged with the authorities and population on their plans for the development of Tambao , the construction of the necessary infrastructure, and the benefits for the population (an estimated number of 100.000+ jobs would be created by the GNR plans for the development of the Tambao manganese resources). All of this is sufficiently documented, on paper and on DVD, inter alia . On 26 March 20https://tambao.co.uk11, an additional protocol was signed between GNR and the Burkina government, now represented by the new minister for mining, Minister Kabore, on the time schedule for the various studies, most of which were already under way or had been concluded already. Nevertheless, at this point and after signing the MoU in March 2011 GNR was invited to participate – again – in a tender procedure, the same it had won in 2010, for the development of Tambao. GNR participated under protest in the tender procedure, as it takes the position that it considers itself the legal contractual partner for the development of Tambao, based upon the MoUís of October 2010 and March 2012.
Pan African Minerals
GNR subsequently lost the bid (with no reasons given) and the Burkina government in August 2012 signed an agreement with Pan African Minerals with regard to the exploitation of the manganese resources, the construction of a road, a rail connection and other infrastructural measures. The impression cannot be avoided that the Burkina government had already started negotiations with PAM on Tambao , but needed some justification to take the contract away from GNR and award it to PAM . GNR now finds itself in a delicate position. It still considers itself the legal partner in a contractual agreement with the Burkina government with regard to the development of the Tambao manganese supplies. GNR has executed the agreed studies and made substantial plans for the infrastructural and economic development of the Sahel region. GNR has only learned from media reports that apparently another party, PAM, had been granted the rights to develop Tambao. There has not been any official communication with the Burkina government on the subject.
Pan African Minerals is also active in the mining sector of Sierra Leone (see Report from Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, page 53 -)
GNR requested the matter to be put up for local arbitration by CAMCO (Centre de Arbitration, Mediation et Conciliation de Ouagadougou); the Burkina delegation did not show up at two consecutive meetings, the last one being on 15th October 2012. The general secretary of CAMCO requested the Burkina government on 16th October 2012 to clarify its position and on 23 October 2012 a letter by Minister Kabore was received , enquiring about the expenses of GNR to date in relation to the implementation of the MoUís. GNR, however, is at this point not interested in being reimbursed for its losses to date (which are estimated at between USD 50 – 70 million, including cost of technical work delivered to date), it wishes the Burkina government to respect the contractual agreements with GNR with regard to the development of the Tambao manganese reserves . Ultimately, GNR has contracted the prestigious French Law firm Fidal to initiate a procedure against Burkina Faso before the ICC Tribunal ñ the Weatherly case is an interesting and important precedent meanwhile GNR wishes to explore ways and means to find a settlement which is acceptable to both sides and for the benefit of all stakeholders.
View media reports here
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