The price of gold
Small-scale artisanal miners told Reuters the local "comptoirs" pay 14,000 CFA francs per gram – or just $740 per ounce – around 60 percent of the current gold price. Ex-rebels and security guards employed by the buyers search miners to ensure they do not sneak ore off-site, one soldier at the mine said.
The main buyers all sell their gold exclusively to Wattao and three partners, the UN investigators allege. Two other sources, who have either worked in the mine or are familiar with its operations, confirmed the system to Reuters.
The partners are "highly visible political figures involved in the current Ivorian administration and the past administration of Burkina Faso," the UN report said, declining to give their names due to mandate restrictions.
Early last year, a buyer not affiliated with Wattao or his partners sought to set up a rival office to buy gold at a higher price. He was killed soon after, according to the investigators.
Wattao denied any involvement. "I've never had elements over there," he told Reuters.
Mines Minister Jean-Claude Brou declined Reuters' requests for comment, but he has previously said that no artisanal mining permits are currently valid in Ivory Coast. A senior ministry official confirmed this and the head of one of the "comptoirs" told Reuters that he and other buyers had applied for, but not received, semi-industrial mining permits to work the Gamina mine.
Image: A gold prospector sits and eats close to a soldier at the Gamina gold mine on March 18, 2015.