It is perhaps a little unfair to refer to Randgold Resources’ (NASDAQ: GOLD, LSE: RRS) Tongon gold mine in Cote d’Ivoire as a ‘problem child’. It has always been a significant gold producer, but has faced its fair share of problems in achieving planned gold recoveries including key plant failures, power supply irregularities, a fire and difficulties in fine tuning to reach design parameters. For many mining companies, though, Tongon’s current production level - close to 250,000 ounces a year - would not define it as a problem operation, but given Randgold’s continuing success in achieving perhaps stronger results at its other West and Central African mines, Tongon stands out as perhaps not doing quite as well as the company’s other mines in comparison.
Following his latest visit to the operation, Randgold CEO, Mark Bristow, has told local media that Tongon was continuing to make headway in its drive to overcome technical issues, with gold production up 7% to 242,948 ounces in 2015 as the flotation upgrade and crushing circuit extension programme started delivering results. He reported that the mine has also now commissioned its fourth-stage crushing circuit, completing an extensive capital project designed to improve throughput and recovery. The new circuit is currently being optimised.
“Tongon is targeting annual production of 290,000 ounces in 2016 but there are still significant challenges in its way. Chief among these is the continued instability of the grid power supply, which has a major impact on the mine’s cost structure. The Tongon team is in discussion with the Ivorian power utility to resolve this problem,” Bristow said.
It was also continuing its drive to extend the life of the mine through exploration, with the latest drilling results indicating the potential for additional reserves and resources within and below the existing open pits.
Overall a positive assessment. Randgold has always been open in discussing any technical difficulties at its operations and it looks as though Tongon is near to achieving its design parameters and it remains a significant contributor to the company’s annual attributable gold production which remains at comfortably over 1 million ounces a year – and growing.