Chami

Chami, Mauritania, 03/03/2018

We left our apartments at 6:00 a.m. We left before sunrise, but the trip had quite a few stops before we even reached Chami.

First, our Kinross office to meet up with everyone else. There were three expats and about fifteen Mauritanians that all volunteered to go. Next, we were off to the bus company office to pick up paperwork.

Sun was now coming up by then. We had 8 government traffic stops to Chami. The longest one took 30 minutes and at one point we thought they would turn us back. The soldiers thought we did not have all the paperwork they were asking for. Not sure we were the likeliest group of car thieves. Driver in guard uniform, old white broad, 21-year-old Las Palmas woman and 50-year-old Indonesian.

I was able to get some decent pictures of the variety of villages on the way to Chami. The Moors villages are usually large tents since they are Nomadic. The brick villages are the Haratin.

Chami is the same town that my department received an emergency request to purchase 300 food boxes, blankets and animal feed for over Christmas. The temperature had dropped below freezing at night and the villagers were in desperate need for these items.

Once we reached Chami it was shocking for me. Chami had a population of only 50 in 2013.

Then “tramp-miners” from all over Africa realized there may be gold in the ground outside our Tasiast mine property. Their impact on this small village is undeniable.

Chami has no water, electricity or sanitation. For a village of 50 people that is common. Now multiple that population to just about 300 and growing every day. Plus, the miners have all put in small, generator operated processing operations and the leftover processing solutions are being dumped into the ground, which will eventually pollute the ground water. Then add their trash and crime.

The local government has moved these operations onto the outskirts of town, but it looks like it is still growing uncontrollably.

Besides the shocking impact these tramp miners have on the town, it does not take much to draw a line to their desperation to find work and feed their families. What they are doing is unhealthy and unsafe. There are a few deaths almost every week among them.

Once we made it to the meeting point (the Mayor’s home) we were put into groups and sent out to pick up trash. Most of the

trash was plastic water bottles, which is the only form of drinkable water. We also found a few dead baby goats but mostly plastic bottles.

Once done we were back at the Mayor’s home for a local dinner feast. Then back on the road to Nouakchott. Ended up being a 13-hour day but only 2 hours working. The rest was sitting in the car or sitting in the Mayor’s tent.

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