What is MS Risk’s expertise?
MS Risk is a security consultancy specialized in three main areas: Security consulting, which involves risk assessments, security planning, and contingency planning. Crisis response, a capacity in which we are retained by a number of insurance companies while also working directly with private and corporate clients helping them deal with major crisis events. These perils include kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, illegal detention, malicious product tampering and contamination, and evacuation. Finally, through our project management service, we run set piece projects for clients, like bolstering their security preparations or offering training.
West Africa has seen more coups or military interventions in the past few years. What is your assessment of these developments?
The situation is alarming. Mali has had two coups in 14 months, while Niger managed to suppress a coup attempt just before its presidential inauguration. Most recently, the seizure of power in Guinea added to this trend. With three successful coups and one coup attempt, political frictions are intensifying, and military actors are encouraged by what happens in other countries. In the first Malian coup, ECOWAS responded quickly to contain the coup leadership by levying strict sanctions on the country, blocking banking transactions, and banning travelling. Mali was isolated except for the transfer of humanitarian aid. Comparatively, the response was milder after the second coup, which sends the wrong message.
In Northern Mali, the war has been going on for three decades, with varying degrees of intensity. About nine years ago, Islamic extremists married up with Tuareg separatists, which created an implosion of violence, calling for the intervention of French forces.
This has stimulated the extremists who see it as an opportunity to claim victory in driving out the French.
As we speak, the war is getting worse. While fighting used to subside during the wet season, this year is different. What started out as a civil war in Mali has mutated into a regional conflict with a Burkinabe epicenter.
How is the spread of violence affecting mining companies?
The southern borders of Burkina Faso are sure to pressure the northern borders of Ghana and Ivory Coast, intensifying the risks of kidnap and murder. The risk of banditry and violent crime is growing as these groups seek money to finance their conflict. Attacks on government forces lead to the militarization of more areas, which disturbs transport and leads to curfew impositions. Resource projects are logistic-intensive; consumables, fuels, food, spare parts, heavy machinery and equipment all need to be transported, and the few roads available are becoming dangerous. Today, mining companies are forced to bolt on added measures to try to stay ahead of the threats, while exploration in a conflict zone is not practical.
How can MS Risk help mitigate some of the political and security risks discussed?
MS Risk assists mining operations across their lifecycle, from concept through production to decommissioning. We take a holistic, scalable approach to risk management. We help clients understand their risk environment and adopt a suitable risk model. In a low-risk environment, they need to establish a few basic security principles on the procedures needed and how to maintain situational awareness. As the risk level goes up, our model naturally evolves in a controlled and nimble way to encompass new conditions. At trigger points, they should know how to suspend operations or shelter in place. As well as knowing when to escalate, mining operators should also know when to de-escalate so that security costs are proportionate to the risks.
The purpose of this risk model is to ensure private companies operate safely and exercise their duty of care to employees and suppliers responsibly. Even though they cannot control when an attack occurs, they need to be able to prove they have done everything in their power to understand and minimize the risks, for instance by being surveillance aware and changing movement patterns when spotting hostile surveillance. When an incident happens, they need to be able to show how they mitigated it, and how they recovered from the incident, by operating an efficient medical evacuation system, for instance. They also need to ensure those securing them are ethical and operationally competent. We help assess and train local forces. We are signatories of the International Code of Conduct.