Jean Kirsi Ouédraogo, General Director, Omega International

Omega International provides boots on the ground for Burkina juniors.

Omega-International-BLOGCould you introduce us to Omega International and tell us about the role the company plays in the local mining sector?

OI: The Office of Mines, Environment and Geosciences (Omega International) was founded in 2010. Our expertise is in providing geology and environmental services to the industry, however we also act as a representative for several mining companies. We are African professionals eager to share our experiences and know-how with the industry in the service of sustainable development.

In the last three years, we have been working with mining companies from Burkina Faso, Australia and Canada. Among our partners in the mining industry are Newmont, Monteray mining Group, Credo Resources, Canyon Resources, SEMS Exploration, Sahara Geoservices, Burkina Or Metal, SOMIKA, Randgold, the Ministry, and more. Internationally we have partners with Pertzel Tahan & Associates in Australia and with Ethnic International in France.

What do you consider your niche expertise in the fields of geological and environmental services?

OI: Omega’s main involvement with the industry when it comes to geology is to work with new companies that want to establish themselves in Burkina Faso. We help companies obtain permits, and following this we recruit and manage their staff. We also provide technical consulting services, such as geochemistry, environmental studies and supervision of drilling programs. Another way in which we work for the sector is to help companies look for international partners. For example, in the cases of SOMIKA and Burkina Or Metal, both companies are artisanal miners with exploration permits but without partners. Omega looks for Australian and Canadian partners for them.

When it comes to our environmental services, mining companies such as Monteray or SAV’OR often ask us to go to their sites and meet with their workers to explain how to protect themselves when using products. On the environmental side, we also work with private companies in the area of construction.

Looking at the exploration potential in Burkina Faso, where do you see most opportunities going forward?

OI: At the moment in Burkina Faso, we have areas that are still not explored. We have good potential but we need to put more investment into exploration. At this time last year, they were three to four companies that wanted to come to Burkina Faso, however this year we have not seen any. It is very difficult for exploration companies to have programs ongoing because they do not have funding right now.

How will the new mining code in Burkina Faso impact the sector’s environmental regulations?

OI: Looking at the new mining code, it will be very good for the environment. Our problem today is that we have artisanal gold mines in addition to our industrial mines. Artisanal mining can be very dangerous and is becoming a very big problem for the country. Artisanal miners use cyanide and mercury, which damages the environment. More artisanal miners are using these products than they did in the past. More than 40% artisanal miners use cyanide, if not more. They do not understand the negative impact of the products on the environment. We expect the new mining code to have a good impact on this.

From an exploration perspective, what are the most difficult challenges that your clients encounter working in Burkina Faso?

OI: Our main problem is getting exploration permits for new companies that want to come into Burkina Faso. Many good permits are held by individual people who are speculating. Investors are interested in coming to the country and these individual permit holders want them to pay. This makes it more difficult for the investors to deal with the risks associated with exploration. It helps to structure agreements where only a small amount is paid at first with the option to increase later.

What is your outlook for the growth of the local mining industry in the medium term?

OI: Problems in Mali, Niger, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, which are all mining countries, have made it challenging for investors. They are looking more at Senegal and Burkina Faso because they are stable destinations. Burkina Faso also has the geological potential, but we have the stability that is driving investment.

What objectives do you have for growth in the next two to three years?

OI: Omega also works on social projects and we are currently building a school. With the Rayi-Zallem Group, we have three schools. Our strategy is to build schools and invest in helping the local people.

For our environmental projects, in the next two years we are looking to secure a consultant partner in this area who has experience outside of Burkina Faso in the wider region. Omega is looking to expand in West Africa and we are looking for international expertise to do that.

This interview was conducted as part of the research conducted on African mining jurisdictions by Global Business Reports (GBR) as part of our partnership with African Mining Indaba LLC. The aim of this partnership is the production of the single most comprehensive intelligence report on the continent’s mineral sector. The Official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide, will be launched next February 2014, as the only official publication providing country-specific information at Africa’s top mining event, the 2014 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba™ held in Cape Town, South Africa.

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