No, the French are not destroying their vehicles in Mali and Burkina Faso

Issued on: 18/11/2022 – 17:58

Numerous social media accounts claimed that this video shows French soldiers destroying vehicles as they depart Mali and Burkina Faso. It turns out, however, that this video shows an Australian company demolishing its own cars. © Observers

Text by: | Alexandre Capron

6 min

A video showing vehicles being destroyed in Africa has sparked all kinds of explanations on social media since it first appeared on November 13. The two most popular theories are that the video shows French troops destroying vehicles while pulling out of Mali or that it shows French actions as they abandon a mine in Burkina Faso. But the clip actually took place at Perkoa Mine in Burkina Faso and shows an Australian company contracted to run the mine destroying vehicles judged to be in poor condition.


If you only have a minute…

  • Since November 13, 2022, a number of Twitter and Facebook accounts have been sharing a video showing vehicles being destroyed along with captions in English, French and Arabic. Almost all of these social media posts claim that “the French” are behind these demolitions. 
  • Some posts claimed that the scene took place in Mali at the end of French military operation Operation Barkhane, while others said that the scene took place at the Perkoa zinc mine in Burkina Faso.
  • According to the Burkina Faso Ministry of Energy, Mines and Quarries, the video was filmed at Perkoa Mine, after deadly flooding took place in April 2022.
  • The people in the video actually work for Australian company Byrnecut, the subcontractor managing mine exploitation at Perkoa.
  • It is impossible at this stage to determine why the vehicles were destroyed. Neither the subcontractors nor the owner of the mine responded to our questions. Official Burkinabe sources said they believed that the vehicles were damaged because they were in poor condition.  

The verification, in detail 

A video has been circulating online, along with a number of different captions. The footage shows two pick-up trucks being destroyed by a bulldozer. Several men wearing work uniforms are present during the scene. “Good job!” someone exclaims from off-camera at the end of the video, likely the person filming. 

Many have said that this scene was filmed in Mali. 

“End of [operation] barcane in mali the french destroy everything that belongs to them instead of taking it  home,” (sic), is the rough translation of this error-ridden . Since it was posted on November 16, it has garnered more than 6,000 views. 

The tweet, shared in French on November 14, translates roughly as, “The reaction of the French before quitting Burkina Faso : look at the managers of Perkoa mine in Burkina, who are destroying their vehicles before leaving”. © Observers

However, other users say that this video has nothing to do with Operation Barkhane, a French operation launched in 2014 in the Sahel and Sahara regions to fight jihadist groups. . 

These accounts agree that the French are the ones destroying these cars, but they say the scene took place in another West African country. 

“The reaction of the French before quitting Burkina Faso: look at the managers of Perkoa mine in Burkina, who are destroying their vehicles before leaving,” reads from November 14, 2022, which has been shared more than 450 times.

Twitter post in English, which has been retweeted nearly 7,000 times, also claims that the scene took place in Perkoa zinc mine in central Burkina Faso. The mine is not currently in operation. This , which was shared more than 5,000 times, also has a similar caption. 

The tweet, posted in French on November 14 and riddled with errors, translates roughly as: “Shared as received; I can neither deny, nor confirm.
End of [operation] barcane in mali the french destroy everything that belongs to them instead of taking it home. That’s mean!
Look at the big moral lesson we are learning from the lesson-givers!!!”
© Observers

A mine owned by the Canadians and subcontracted to the Australians 

The scene did actually take place at the Perkoa industrial mine, according to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Quarries, which provided information on the case during the Council of Ministers meeting held on November 16, 2022. This statement is included in this . Burkinabe officials also say they made a hasty visit to the mine on November 13 to “exchange with mine officials”.

The statement also said that the vehicles destroyed belonged to “a subcontractor of Nantou mining company called Byrnetcut SARL company”.

You can also see that the Byrnecut logo is on the trucks.

According to a number of accounts, this video shows French soldiers destroying their vehicles before leaving Burkina Faso or Mali. But it turns out this footage shows an Australian mining company destroying their own vehicles. © Observers

However, contrary to claims made by numerous posts, the French didn’t run this mine. The Burkinabe government owns 10% of Perkoa Mine, which was opened in 2013, while a Canadian company Trevali Mining owns the other 90%. A branch of Trevali Mining, Nantou Mining, manages the on-the-ground activities.  

However, since 2016, Nantou Mining has itself been using a subcontractor, the Australian company Byrnecut, to develop the mine and oversee the production of zinc. You can read about the mine on .

Our team spoke to Elie Kabore, the publishing director of the website (Mining News Burkina), who said that the French have no links to this mine. 

“No mine in Burkina Faso is being exploited by the French. The French are involved in many other sectors, including transportation, logistics, oil, explosives … but the mines are run by the Canadians, by Australians and by Russians.”

‘Out of order’ vehicles? 

So why did Byrnecut destroy these vehicles? 

According to the government delegation that visited the mine, the vehicles were destroyed because they were in such bad condition. 

“It turns out that six vehicles were destroyed because of the company’s policy for managing out-of-order vehicles, according to mine officials,” according to the summary of the Council of Ministers meeting previously mentioned.

However, no additional proof was provided to support this hypothesis. 

Our team made multiple attempts to contact the company, but they didn’t want to answer our questions. With an absence of factual information, it is difficult to determine, with certainty, the reasons that these vehicles were destroyed. 

Court-ordered liquidation of the mine

Our team contacted several former employees of Nantou Mining, who also refused to speak as the mine is currently in court-ordered liquidation. 

On October 6, 2022, parent company Trevali Mining did ask for the court-ordered liquidation of its branch Nantou Mining, which was accepted on November 14, 2022, as stated in these . 

“The liquidator has assumed responsibility for the management of the affairs of Nantou Mining and Trevali no longer exercises operational control over Nantou Mining or the Perkoa mine,” it states.

This liquidation follows deadly flooding that took place in April 2022 and led to the closing of the mine. more than 700 feet underground when torrential rain caused flooding in underground passages.  

After the tragedy, the general director of Nantou Mining and the director of operations with Byrnecut Burkina were in September 2022, and were handed a suspended prison sentence.

Byrnecut was originally contracted to run the mine until 2023, but the contract was ended.

Were these vehicles destroyed to prevent jihadists from using them? 

Another theory also emerged on social media to explain the destruction of these vehicles. Some posts claimed that the company was trying to prevent these vehicles from falling into the hands of jihadist groups. 

“The policy of the mine is to not cede these vehicles because of prior instances when mining vehicles were used in terrorist activity,” according to this from November 13, 2022.

However, Elie Kabore, from the news website Mine Actu Burkina, has doubts about this theory. 

“The zone where the jihadists are located is more than 200 kilometres from the Perkoa Mine,” he said. The areas where Islamist extremists are active are in northern Burkina Faso, as shown in these on October 4, 2022. The Perkoa mine, however, is located in a relatively safe zone in the centre of the country. 

Kabore said he had never seen a situation like this before and wondered if the destruction of these vehicles was even legal. 

“ stipulates that the material used in mining operations has fiscal advantages in terms of customs, that you pay less tax on them. However, if you benefit from this tax break on your materials, customs requires that the material doesn’t leave the site, that it is only for use there. If the material entered the territory under these rules, which is likely, Byrnecut can’t destroy the vehicles without informing customs.”

The government has launched investigations into the fiscal situation of these vehicles in an effort to understand if the destruction was legal, as stated in the of the Council of Ministers on November 16, 2022.

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