It isn’t always easy to do business in Eritrea but the Bisha mines, a joint Eritrean-Canadian operation, are an exception. They are also a bright spot for Eritrea’s economy and have contributed more than 800 million dollars to the state’s coffers.
The mines, a five-hour drive from the capital Asmara towards the Sudanese border, are Eritrea’s first mines in full production and the authorities hope they can boost the economy in a country where people earn an average of just three US dollars a day.
Jointly owned by the Eritrean state and Canadian company Nevsun, the mines first produced gold and are now yielding copper and zinc. There are hopes there could be more minerals to extract in the region.
Senior planning engineer Abdoulkarim Sidibe, from Mali, is among the foreign workers employed on the site.
But to work in Eritrea you have to accept certain conditions.
“The main objective of the state is to train Eritrean workers so after some time they’ll replace the expatriates,” he says. “If I want to extend my contract I need to train Eritreans.”
Eritrea says it hopes to have four mines in operation by 2018 as it seeks to exploit the country’s rich mineral deposits.