As followers of the company will be aware Randgold Resources has had to overcome a succession of problems at its big Tongon gold mine in Côte d’Ivoire – initially by technical problems at the mill and most recently by work stoppages by its labour force. Although a relatively short life operation – it has around three and a half years’ life remaining based on its existing resource, although the company is working to expand this through brownfields exploration around the current operation.
Randgold CEO, Mark Bristow, is a big supporter of new gold mining exploration in Côte d’Ivoire and the country’s government’s attitude towards mining investment and development and is working hard to try and find new projects there which fit in with its new mine development policies.
Bristow tends to visit all the company’s operations each quarter ahead of the quarterly financial announcements – 2018 Q1 figures are due in the next 2 weeks. On a visit by Bristow to Côte d’Ivoire last week the company made the following statement on the latest situation at Tongon and the intent to make up any lost production stemming from the recent work stoppages.
Production at Randgold’s Tongon gold mine was impacted during the first quarter of 2018 by a series of work stoppages which started with the employees of the mining contractor and then spread to other operations.
Management said while this would impact on the mine’s production guidance of 290 000 ounces for 2018, it was making a determined effort to recover most of the lost output, with operations now back at full capacity. To mitigate the downtime effect and lost plant throughput, Tongon processed ore from the run-of-mine and scats stockpiles during the stoppages and also used the opportunity to upgrade parts of the plant to achieve a higher and more consistent throughput going forward.
Chief executive Mark Bristow told a local media briefing that the mine’s management had been supported in resolving the situation by the highest level of the government as well as parliament members and local authorities, and, along with the workers and union leadership, these parties had also agreed on a constructive process to workshop solutions and prevent similar issues in future. It was encouraging to note, he said, that government fully acknowledges the importance of Randgold and Tongon to the Ivorian economy, and the fact that Tongon represents the single largest investment in the country’s mining industry.
“The history of Tongon has reflected the occasionally turbulent socio-political nature of its environment and a misunderstanding of the mining business which is a relatively new activity in the country, but management has dealt effectively with the challenges that have come their way. The mine is managed by a majority Ivorian team and of its 1,700 employees, only 40 are expatriates. Their record speaks for itself: since it was commissioned in 2010 Tongon has produced 2.7 million ounces of gold and in 2017 it posted record results, despite the slow start to the year,” Bristow said.
“Tongon has three-and-a-half years of life left as things stand but we are actively looking for means to extend this and a number of exciting near-mine opportunities are currently being evaluated by the exploration team. We’re also exploring for new gold discoveries elsewhere in our large permit portfolio in Côte d’Ivoire, where we intend to retain a long term presence.”
At the same time, however, Tongon is planning for life after its eventual closure by developing an economically viable agribusiness to provide replacement income for former workers and the surrounding communities in line with its sustainable development policy.
We can probably expect a couple of further statements on the company’s other operations ahead of the release of the Q1 figures due on May 10th. Randgold (LSE: RRS, NASDAQ: GOLD) has been one of the foremost gold mining growth stories with current annual gold production of some 40.9 tonnes putting it in 15th place among the world’s major gold miners, according to precious metals consultancy Metals Focus (See: Top 20 Global Gold Miners – Newmont narrows the No. 1 gap.