Following Africa's gold smugglers to Dubai

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on April 24, 2019 - Duration: 02:49s

Following Africa's gold smugglers to Dubai

Billions of dollars worth of gold is being smuggled out of the African bush every year and funneled through the UAE.

A Reuters analysis shows how it's surged, and the severe security and health impacts of the wildcat mining its fueling.

Tim Cocks and Matthew Larotonda report.

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Following Africa's gold smugglers to Dubai

This gold is contraband, according to a trader we found in Uganda - the result of smuggling.

A new Reuters analysis shows the scale of the black market trade in gold in Africa.

It also shows where most of it is going: Dubai, where the gold is put into refineries and markets for destinations elsewhere.

An exact estimate is impossible, but United Nations customs and trade data show that the UAE declared imports of $15 billion in gold from 46 African countries in 2016, for example.

But of that $15 billion roughly half - $7 billion - came from 25 African countries that listed no exports of gold at all to the Emirates.

Trade economists and some of those countries say the discrepancy points to massive quantities of smuggling, and African states get none of the benefits from export taxes.

Reuters' Tim Cocks visited miners in one of those countries: Ghana.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TIM COCKS, REUTERS WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA BUREAU CHIEF, SAYING: "The Ghanaian government says this unregulated artisanal mining has to stop.

They say it is wrecking the environment, polluting rivers, and poisoning farmland with toxic levels of mercury.

To which the miners reply, 'Well that's all very well but what else have you got for us to do?'

There are no other jobs around here and even the few that there are don't pay anything like as well as gold.

Mining, they say, has enabled us to feed our families, build our houses and educate our children, so that maybe one day they will have more options and will be in a position to do something better than this." (SOUNDBITE) (English) TIM COCKS, REUTERS WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA BUREAU CHIEF, SAYING: "Without mining, they say, they won't be able to do any of these things.

It's a dilemma facing so many poor countries sitting on most of the gold that the rich world wants and it's one that very few have any idea how to resolve." Most Western countries don't directly handle African gold because of these harms, as well as concerns about human rights and worries it may help fund conflicts.

Those problems are less of a concern in the United Arab Emirates and the relationship is growing.

Trade data shows that half of all the global imports of gold into the UAE in 2016 came from the African continent.

That market share is almost double where it was just a decade earlier.

This boy, age 12, says he has no idea what the foreigners do with any of the gold.

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