Soil and Water Pollution from Gold Panning: Phytoremediation Technology, a Detox Solution at Your Fingertips!

On April 29, 2022, the Dutch development organization SNV and the consortium World Waternet (WWn) started the activities of component 2 of the water project CLE du Développement Durable (ECDD) at the gold panning site of Nimbrogo in the province of Nahouri. Using phytoremediation technology developed by the Institute for Research in Applied Sciences and Technologies (IRSAT), the component restores the quality of water and soil damaged by chemicals. The Integrated Water Resources Management project entitled Eau, CLE du Développement Durable (ECDD) is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Burkina Fado with more than 12 million euros, ie around 8 billion CFA francs.

The activities of component 2 of the CLE du Développement Durable (ECDD) water project were officially launched on April 29, 2022 in Nimbrogo, a rural municipality of Ziou in the province of Nahouri. This component consists of restoring water and soil quality using phytoremediation technology developed by the Institute for Research in Applied Sciences and Technologies (IRSAT).

After the explanations by Dr. Martine Diallo/Koné, researcher at IRSAT and responsible for the implementation of phytoremediation, this technique is a technology for detoxifying soils through the use of plants; There are several species of plants used for phytoremediation and the plant chosen for the experiment at Nimbrogo is Chrysopogon zizanioides, a plant imported from southern India. The procedure consists in planting 2 hectares of this species on the area to be treated. Thus, the roots remove harmful substances from chemicals such as mercury and cyanide used by gold miners.

The researcher, Dr. Martine Diallo/ Koné, Phytoremediation Manager at IRSAT

It is an inexpensive technique that can be used to restore large contaminated areas: “Chrysopogon zizanioides adapts to harsh conditions such as drought or bushfires. It is a plant with a massive and very deep root system that eliminates soil pollution. It has a very good effect on runoff water, facilitates soil fertilization as it brings in organic matter and facilitates water penetration. It has many advantages,” explains Dr. Martine Diallo/ Koné. For a better outcome of the project, she asked the population to get involved and appropriate this technology by including it in their daily activities.

The people of Nimbogo greet with joy and hope the project to restore soils degraded by artisanal mining

The people of Nimbrogo were aware of the benefits of the project and welcomed the initiative. For her, a project that comes at the right time, as the use of chemicals already has negative effects on animal health and certainly on human health: “We took up the project with joy and pride. We will work with the project managers to achieve the expected goals. said the head of Nimbrogo, Naaba Souriguia.

The chief of Nimbrogo gives his exoneration for the implementation of phytoremediation in his village of Nimbrogo

Like the village head, Karim Songtoa, manager of the gold panning facility, welcomes the choice of the Nimbrogo facility with joy. “We use cyanide, but we are aware that these acts are prohibited. But since we have nothing to do, it is this work that allows us to feed ourselves and send our children to school. We welcomed the project because the cyanide we use kills our own animals. Plants will help us restore water and soil for the happiness of our brothers and sisters. We are willing to work with project stakeholders. “, he said.

ANEEMAS, support in the implementation of phytoremediation

The project is technically supported by the National Agency for the Supervision of Artisanal and Semi-Mechanized Mining Operations (ANEEMAS). According to managing director Jacob Ouédraogo, gold panning in Burkina Faso has reached worrying proportions in recent years. According to him, more than 1,000 gold panning sites in Burkina have been listed through satellite imagery, but 800 have been recorded by on-site teams.

More than 600 locations were in operation in 2018. Studies have shown that this activity produces between 9.5 and 25 tons of gold annually. The 9.5 tons are worth 230 billion CFA francs. It is an activity that supports more than 2 million Burkinabé and more than 1 million direct actors in artisanal mining.

The coordinator of the ECDD project at WWn, Gislain Anselme Kaboré

(3rd from left)

Hence the need to monitor the sector on the one hand and repair the damage caused on the other. “We took up this project with great satisfaction. One of our missions is to work to restore sites damaged by gold panning. Until then, our strategy was to go through reforestation and plant trees in winter. Today, this new technology developed by IRSAT allows us to have a fairly resilient facility that facilitates recovery by eliminating the chemical products that gold panners and artisanal miners use in their activities. In addition, the use of these products is certainly prohibited, but people go beyond the regulations,” confided the DG of ANEEMAS.

Explanations of the project coordinator at WWn, Gislain Anselme Kaboré, ECDD is funded by the Dutch Embassy for a period of 4 years, from 2020 to 2024. Its overall objective is to contribute to the resilience of the populations in the areas by increasing livelihoods and access on water, hygiene and sanitation and as an indirect impact by contributing to the sustainable management of water resources and their domestic and productive uses in fragile watersheds in Burkina Faso.

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Name of the plant species used

Chrysopogon zizanioides

Properties of the plant:

Herbaceous plant with a massive and strong root system

Non-invasive plant: lack of seeds; reproduced from


Resistant to pests and diseases

drought tolerant plant

Perennial plant…

Other uses of the plant

Participates in soil fertilization

Reduces water runoff

Can be used as a live hook

Participate in protecting the banks…

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