Update on Africa’s biggest gold mine

Randgold Resources, the biggest London listed gold miner by market capitalisation and the 14th largest gold producing company in the world, currently operates the two biggest gold mines in Africa according to consultancy Metals Focus – the Loulo-Gounkoto complex in Mali and Kibali in the DRC – and both are among the world’s Top 20 gold producing operations – See: World Top 20 Gold Miners and Mines.

Last year Loulo-Gounkoto, at No. 13 on the global list, was the bigger producer, but Kibali was experiencing some technical and operational  difficulties which reduced its output a little, but still came in as the world’s 16th largest gold mine by production.  It is currently  putting the problems behind it as its underground operations build up to full output and it should regain its top spot among African gold mines by the end of the current year.

The mine is owned 45% by Randgold, 45% by Anglogold Ashanti, with the remaining 10% by DRC parastatal, Sokimo.  Randgold built the mine – located in one of the most remote areas of the African continent close to the DRC’s north eastern border with South Sudan – and operates it.

The company’s latest statement on the mine and its progress is published here in full, but note CEO Mark Bristow’s warning about possible DRC governmental goalpost-moving on the country’s mining code:

KIBALI HEADS FOR FULL PRODUCTION AS UNDERGROUND MINE NEARS COMPLETION AND SECOND HYDROPOWER STATION IS COMMISSIONED
The Kibali gold mine’s underground operation, which will significantly increase production, is on track to start commissioning in the third quarter of this year, Randgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow said at a media briefing.

The mine is forecast to deliver approximately 610,000 ounces of gold this year, up from 585,000 ounces in 2016, but annual production is scheduled to rise to around 750,000 ounces from 2018, when the underground operation will make it fully functional.

Bristow noted that Kibali ended 2016 with a creditable performance after having to contend with a range of operational challenges as well as the constraints imposed by limited open pit mining flexibility.  In addition to dealing with these issues, the Kibali team succeeded in keeping the underground development on track, successfully constructing and commissioning four ultrafine grind mills in the metallurgy circuit, as well as progressing work on the mine’s second new hydropower station which was commissioned in February this year.  The third and last of the new hydropower stations is currently being built by an all-Congolese contracting group.

“Kibali has stayed on course to become one of the world’s great gold mines despite the challenges of last year and the volatile political climate in the DRC at present,” he said.

“Randgold remains committed to the DRC and is confident that its government, politicians and civil society have the will as well as the capacity to work together to secure the country’s future.  We therefore continue to invest in exploration here and to lead the way in developing the north eastern DRC as a major new gold mining region.  Our engagement with the country and its people is also evident in our substantial investment in local economic development and community upliftment programmes.  These include macro and micro agribusinesses designed not only to provide regional food security but to generate surplus produce for export.”

It was a source of concern, however, that the DRC government had once again signalled its intention of reviewing the country’s 2002 mining code with the clear intention of maximising state revenue, Bristow said.  This could have a very negative impact not only on the mining industry but also on the economy.

“Now more than ever the DRC should be focused on retaining its existing investors and attracting new ones.  It’s certainly not the time to harvest more from less for short term gain.  It’s my sincere hope that this time round the government will engage the mining sector fully in the proposed review to achieve an outcome that will be in the best interests of the Congolese economy as well as the country’s mining sector,” he said.

“The existing code is in fact a good one but it is not always being applied effectively and there are still many mining operations that do not operate under the code.  There are also a number of issues and challenges which mining companies are having to face which make operating in the DRC more challenging.  In Kibali’s case, these issues include more than $200 million in unpaid TVA and duty refunds.”

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