Mining has for a long time been an important aspect of Malian economy. Gold accounted for some 80% of mining activity in the mid-2000s. Over the years, gold was collected in smaller towns and then sold with no regulation to larger dealers who eventually sold it to smelters in Europe.
When Mohamed Diarra got a job at Mali’s Investment Promotion Agency in 2009 as head of infrastructure and energy, there was no clear cut policy on mining. “I was promoting mining and energy but I was not a mining expert. There were so many pitfalls working against Mali’s mining industry,” he says.
When he got an opportunity to study for a Master’s degree in Australia on a scholarship funded by the Australian Government, he decided to study Mineral and Energy Economics. His research focusing on doing business in West Africa in mining taught him all the technical terms in mining. “I learnt how to rank companies in terms of the best to do with business,” says the 2013 Alumnus of Curtin University.
Back home, as the Head of Mission at the Ministry of Mines, Mohamed has a vision for Mali’s mining sector. “We are currently working on investment promotion policies, artisanal mining issues, a patrimony company and local content. These are all in development stages, but are evolving rapidly. The vision of the Ministry is to increase the added value in the mining sector to act as a motor for the Malian economy. I want my country to get the best while negotiating for mining deals with mining companies,” he says.
Mohamed has brought in a new dimension in mining in Mali. The country has participated in various mining events in Qatar, South Africa, Canada, England, China and Australia. “These trips have allowed us to meet with potential investors and financiers attracting and retaining foreign direct investment in the mining sector in some Greenfield projects in gold, manganese and iron ore exploration. “I came back at the right time because there is room for change,” he says.