Mali export tax regime encourages illicit gold trade in West Africa
Mali’s taxation practices applicable to gold exports have turned the country into West Africa’s illicit gold trading hub, Partnership Africa Canada said in a report published today.
The report, “The West African El Dorado: Mapping the Illicit Trade of Gold in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso” investigates challenges in the governance of artisanal gold mining in the three countries—and the vulnerabilities posed by the illicit trade of gold on the region.
All countries have taken important steps towards encouraging legal trade of artisanal gold—a sector which employs an estimated three million miners in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso—such as the harmonization of export taxes at 3%.
Yet, Partnership Africa Canada found that Mali’s application of export taxes to only the first 50kg of gold per month is promoting smuggling, as traders bring gold over the border into Mali to get a large tax break.
“Mali’s harmful implementation of tax laws is cause for concern in the region, as it actively drives the illicit trade of gold. Mali’s neighbours are missing out on important revenue from taxes as traders smuggle gold over borders to take advantage of the tax break,” said Joanne Lebert, Partnership Africa Canada’s Executive Director.
“Importantly, export statistics from Mali are painting a worrying trend and it is up to international refiners and buyers to exercise additional due diligence on gold exported from the country to ensure the gold is clean,” added Lebert.
An analysis of gold production and trade statistics in Mali, as well as declared imports from the United Arab Emirates of Malian gold spotlighted major inconsistencies in the declared data. Over a four-year period, UAE imports of Malian gold successively exceeded Mali’s entire gold production. Mali declared 40 tonnes of gold produced in 2013—while UAE declared 49.6 tonnes imported. In 2014, the figure rose with Mali declaring production at 45.8 and UAE declaring 59.9 in Malian gold imports.
Since much of Mali’s industrial production is exported to Swiss and South African refiners, Partnership Africa Canada found little explanation for the discrepancy. The extent of the illicit gold trade in Mali raises concerns about regional peace and stability and highlights the need for refining centres to exercise additional due diligence on imports.
Partnership Africa Canada calls on Mali to undertake a comprehensive review of its tax regime to address the loopholes that make it magnet for gold produced in West Africa. Additionally, the report calls on the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre in the UAE to ban hand-carried imports of gold and demonstrate greater oversight over gold imports.
The report also calls on gold producing countries in West Africa to harmonize policies and practices in the gold sector through a Regional Approach, similar to that currently being implemented in the Mano River Union on diamond governance.
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Global iron ore production to recover by 5.1% in 2021
Global iron ore production fell by 3% to 2.2bnt in 2020. Global production is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% to 2,663.4Mt between 2021 to 2025. The key contributors to this grow will be Brazil (6.2%), South Africa (4.1%), Australia (3.2%) and India (2.9%). Key upcoming projects expected to commence operations include South Flank in Australia (2021), Zulti in South Africa (H2 2021), Serrote Da Laje in Brazil (H2 2021) and Gudai-Darri (2022), according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, comments: “Declines from Brazil and India were major contributors to the reduced output in 2020. Combined production from these two countries fell from a collective 638.2Mt in 2019 to an estimated 591.1Mt in 2020. The reduced output from the iron ore giant, Vale, was the key factor behind Brazil’s reduced output, while delays in the auctioning of mines in Odisha affected India’s output in 2020.
“Miners in Australia were relatively unaffected by COVID-19 due to effective measures adopted by the Australian Government, while a speedy recovery in China led to a significant 10.4% increase in the country’s iron ore output.”
Looking ahead, the global iron ore production is expected to increase by 111.3Mt to 2,302.5Mt in 2021. Rio Tinto is expected to produce up to 340Mt of iron ore, while BHP has released production guidance of 245–255Mt, supported by the start of the Samarco project in December, which is expected to produce between 1–2Mt.The company has retained its guidance for Australian mines at 276–286Mt on a 100% basis, due to scheduled maintenance work at its ore handling plant and tie-in activity at the Area C mine and South-Flank mine.
Bajaj added: “The remaining companies are expected to produce more than 600Mt of iron ore, including FMG, whose production is expected to range between 175–180Mt supported by its Eliwana mine that commenced operations in late December 2020, and Anglo American, which is expecting to produce between 64–67Mt. Vale is expected to resume 40Mt of its production capacity, taking its overall production capacity to 350Mt in 2021, with production guidance of 315-335Mt.”