Lompoul, is a small desert area located in the northwest of Senegal, halfway between Dakar and Saint-Louis. It will be the next zircon mining area. The second phase, called Grande Côte Opérations (GCO), is expected to begin in 2023 with the French subsidiary Eramet. The latter takes the largest share of the contract with 90% of the revenues from the exploitation of this ore used for the manufacture of building materials, in the jewelry industry or in the nuclear industry. Senegal will have only 10% of its zircon. A significant gain gap that the populations of this locality struggle to understand, populations that are also worried for their work related to the tourist activity of the area.
Seven years after the launch of the first phase in 2014 of the Diogo mine in northern Senegal, the subsidiary of the French mining company Eramet now wants to launch the second phase of zircon mining in Lompoul in 2023. The first phase of exploitation began in Senegal in March 2014. The mine is located 150 kilometres north of Dakar and spans more than 100 kilometres along the coast. It also produces ilmenite, another ore used in the pigment industry.
Although the people of this locality remain sceptical and worried, the Senegalese state has not yet decided on a possible compensation or names of these families who will be directly affected by the impacts of this mining. Tourism will be the first sector to suffer the negative effects of this project, a key factor in economic activity in this part of Senegal. Some deplore the lack of communication and consultation between the State and the populations. Their questioning focuses on the disproportionate percentage between the 90% recovered by France and the only 10% coming back to Senegal.
Another file is slowing down in Niafrang in the south of the country precisely in the region of Casamance, and for good reason: the populations but also the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), a separatist movement active in this part of Senegal since 1980, do not fold. They do not want the land affected. This refusal prevents Astron, the Australian company that has to exploit zircon in this area, from starting the exploitation process.
In 2020, the site produced 85,000 tonnes of minerals, according to the Senegalese Ministry of Mines. All production is exported to the European market. The Senegalese authorities have set a target of 90,000 tonnes per year. This is part of the national economic development project “Plan Sénégal Émergent”. However, according to Eramet, it creates 735 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs related to zircon mining, 94% of which benefit Senegalese. The deposit extends about 100 kilometres along the coast. It is the fourth largest zircon deposit in the world.