Story by Dave Dembele

This report is owned and first published by our patterners  The Colonist Report Africa and The Colonist Report. No part or all of this report can be republished without prior consent from management. Kindly email  for inquiries.

In Sanankoroba, a town outside of Bamako on Route Nationale 7 (RN7) that leads to Sikasso in Mali, which is bordered by Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, people are fighting for clean and fresh air to breathe. As of the 2009 census, the town had over 37,361 residents. 

SAGL MALI Recyclers SARL, an Indian company located on the right-hand side of the RN7, outskirts of Sanankoroba, has been accused by locals of polluting the air following its activities and the release of toxic waste from its battery recycling plant into the atmosphere.

On January 9, 2024, The Colonist Report Africa visited a town where a strong and unpleasant smell filled the air. The reporter found it difficult to breathe and felt uncomfortable due to the choking smell. Staying in the area for a long time could potentially harm one’s lungs and health.

Frequent commuters of RN7 are desperately seeking a way to avoid the unpleasant experience of traveling through the area. The only high school in the city, Lycée Sanan, is located just 300 meters away and is struggling to cope with the nauseating smells that permeate the area. The source of this widespread discomfort is the SAGL Mali Recyclers battery recycling plant, which is operating at full capacity, emitting smoke and pollution into the surrounding environment. 

Several residents living near the company, including health workers, shared their experiences, and present and former employees of SAGL MALI Recyclers narrated to The Colonist Report Africa the process that leads to air pollution.

The Company’s gate /Dave Dembele on January 9, 2024 for The Colonist Report Africa.

“The company has large fences, security guards, and a secure gate that only allows employees inside. Without permission from any management personnel, an uninvited guest cannot enter. This makes it difficult for The Colonist Report Africa to access and observe the company’s activities. Furthermore, it is not easy to identify the type of company that releases its waste into the air as there is no sign or name on the fence or gate.”

SAGL MALI Recyclers SARL massive exhaust pipes were cited far away, facing towards the sky and the chimney, releasing the black smoke spread over a radius of several kilometres—substances that locals alleged to have an everyday impact on their respiration and even animals.

Kumar  Jagdish, SAGL MALI Recyclers unit director, confirms the pollution but maintains the company follows the rules. “Yes, we do follow the rules,” he says.

“Yes, of course, I am aware of the pollution. This is a recycling plant,” Jagdish told The Colonist Report Africa on WhatsApp chat when asked whether he was aware of the air pollution.


The high incidence of respiratory and skin illnesses observed in local hospitals is evidence that the people residing near SAGL Mali Recyclers are being significantly affected by the company’s battery recycling activities.

According to a health worker from Sanankoroba Health Centre, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, the facility frequently receives cases of acute respiratory or dermatological symptoms. “Whenever this happens, we refer patients to hospitals in Bamako in the hope of receiving better care,” our source explained.

Djeneba Coulibaly, a college student, sometimes experiences a prolonged loss of smell. She admits that when the factory’s chimney begins emitting black smoke, she struggles to find a place to breathe since the fumes are suffocating and cause nausea.

Daily, residents have been struggling and looking for help in the hope that the company will stop their activities or relocate to another location, but this seems impossible.

Binkè Koné, a second-hand clothing vendor located near the factory, said that they had been hoping for a solution to relocate the plant for years. “We can’t go on breathing poison,”  she told The Colonist Report Africa.

The sound of the call to prayer from a mosque’s minaret can be heard up to 50 meters away. Moussa Koné, an ardent member of the mosque, expressed his disappointment to The Colonist Report Africa, stating that the worshippers who frequent the mosque are dismayed that the Sanankoroba community and the authorities have yet to find a solution to the problem they created by allocating land for harmful and dangerous purposes that affect the health of the population.

A stone’s throw from the mosque, near the factory, several dozen animals wander around looking for herbs. Further investigation by The Colonist Report Africa revealed the government had conducted a scientific analysis of the impact of the company’s pollution but had failed to release the results.   

An anonymous researcher working for an NGO in Sanankoroba revealed that the “scientific analysis results are still awaited to determine the extent of air and environmental impact in the area.” “The aim is to help the local population cope with the potential dangers associated with the presence of a plant.”

Despite years of battling with continuous air pollution, residents claim the company has never compensated locals with anything since its inception in 2017.  

Moussa Kanté, a resident of Sanankoroba,  told The Colonist Report Africa that the company has never provided any support despite the pollution. “Our women and children are exposed. There’s no compensation whatsoever from those in charge of the plant and even less from the authorities who paved the way for the Indian company.”

It is noteworthy that a significant portion of recycled batteries are obtained from automobiles imported from Europe and other Western countries. Recycling these batteries often involves smelting, which unfortunately results in the loss of valuable materials such as lead and lithium, both of which can be hazardous to human health. Battery recycling plants have a troubling history of causing lead poisoning, child fatalities, and environmental contamination.


Outside the company premises, a few dozen employees are seen hanging around, relieved by other colleagues. The workers claim to have braved inhumane and abject working conditions that contravene legal standards. The employees, around forty in number, are visibly defenseless and cannot complain or make demands at the risk of being dismissed.

“We were told that a toxic substance with cyanide components, highly destructive to human skin, is used as a disinfectant for workers after work,” a former employee told The Colonist Report Africa.

According to the former employee,  during his stay at the company, the daily task was to dilute or melt in the fire the contents of the batteries collected and transported to the factory. The metal elements from the used batteries are transformed, melted, and then passed through a brick mold. “The large quantities of aluminum produced here daily, and towed to seaports in neighbouring countries daily.”

Jagdish vehemently denied the workers’ claim that they were being forced to work near fire without protective shields. He made it clear that visitors are kept at a safe distance from the area where workers are exposed to the flames. Furthermore, he emphasized that staff inside the factory exit in a warm and welcoming environment, and he assured that the company complies with all the safety regulations to ensure the well-being of its employees.

He continued: “But we are operating legally, in accordance with the required protection and safety standards. We are aware of the dangers and consequences of such activity on the environment.

“I don’t know who is telling these kinds of things; actually we are looking very clean factory and always taking care of the environment.”

“Even just at the end of 2022, we had a  complete environmental audit at our factory. We are doing well with our employees.”


The Marlian government has implemented regulations around the recycling of used batteries containing lead and copper. These regulations require government authorization before recycling can take place. Additionally, the movement of such batteries and other sources containing lead and copper across borders is restricted by Article 6 of ORDER N°2016-2637/MEADD-SG. However, it has come to The Colonist Report Africa’s attention that the company exports its finished products outside of Mali.

While Section 2 of Article 4 of Order N°2016-2637/MEADD-SG requires medical checks for personnel working in recycling batteries at least every six months, former workers told The Colonist Report Africa that the company never kept to law for checking employees’ medical fitness.

We shared our findings with the company unit director regarding the exportation of the finished products outside Mali. Unfortunately, we have not received any response from him yet. We sent him a gentle reminder after he mentioned that he would seek legal consultation before responding to our inquiry. Regrettably, we have not heard back from him as of the time of publishing this report.

Air pollution caused by SAGL MALI Recyclers has been a long-standing issue that has adversely affected the local population. Despite the ongoing protest by human rights activists, the company has continued to export its finished recycled products, leading to further environmental damage. Ras Kebe, one of the activists, accused the company of neglecting the well-being of the community, stating, “The population is left to fend for itself and is more than ever mobilized to demand the immediate closure of the said factory.”

In an interview with The Colonist Report Africa, he expressed his concern about the situation in the rural Commune of Sanankoroba, stating that the local authorities are putting the health of the community members in jeopardy.


Bourama Traoré, a former MP of Bananzolé, has expressed his commitment to shutting down the pollution plant. According to his close associates, Traoré was deceived by the mayor’s office in Sanankoroba and other local authorities. However, Mamadou Zan Traoré, the current mayor of Sanankoroba and former mayor, disputes these claims and asserts his strong opposition to the plant and its impact on the local community.

Even though his municipality collects taxes amounting to several tens of millions of CFA francs a year, he insists that he was not behind the transfer of the plot to the Indian company. I’ve been falsely accused,” he says. “it’s a matter that’s beyond me, and I wasn’t even remotely involved in the signing of the deed of sale. Go and check for yourself.”

The top official of the commune of Sanankoroba claims that the case is purely political and accuses the former governor of the Koulikoro region of being one of the main actors behind the transfer of the several-hectare land. It is alleged that the governor received support from high-ranking officials in the Presidency.

Additional reporting  by Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi

Editing by Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi

Editor’s note: The Colonist Report Africa decided to hide the faces of staff to avoid any reprisal because all sources live very close to the company. It is our way of protecting our sources.

If you have any complaints about this report or have experienced a similar issue from this company or any other company that you want us to cover, please, email We assure you that your information will be protected..

Water Journalists Africa, established in 2011 as a not-for-profit media organization, boasts a membership of journalists hailing from 50 African countries, dedicated to reporting on water, climate change,...