Randgold Resources reported in mid-April 2012 that construction at the Kibali gold project in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo is well under way, as its developers continue to target first production by the end of 2013. The plus-10-million-oz gold deposit is owned by Randgold (45%), AngloGold Ashanti (45%), and the Congolese parastatal, Sokimo (10%). The current life-of-mine plan envisages average production of approximately 600,000 oz/y of gold for the first 12 years, at an average grade of 4.1 g/mt.

Randgold is developing the Kibali project and will operate the mine. The completed operation will comprise an integrated underground and open-pit mine, a twin-circuit sulphide and oxide plant with a throughput of 6 million mt/y, and four self-constructed hydropower stations, as well as a standby high-speed thermal power generator for back-up during the dry season.

The Kibali project is being constructed in two overlapping phases. Phase 1, through startup, covers the metallurgical plant, the first phase of the tailings storage facility, the first of the hydropower stations, the back-up power plant, all shared infrastructure, and the completion of a resettlement program. The cost of Phase 1 is estimated at $920 million, before provisions, contingencies, and escalation. Phase 2 will include development of the underground mine, which is expected to deliver first ore in 2014 and to reach steady state production by 2015, at an estimated cost of $650 million before provisions, contingencies, and escalation.

“By the end of March, we had already shifted 200,000 m3 of ground for the foundations of the metallurgy plant, and during the second quarter we plan to move 800,000 m3 for the bulk earthworks,” said Project Manager Gary Short. “Construction of the assay laboratory is scheduled for completion by early May, and the three laydown terraces should be complete by June.

“The open-pit mining contractor started site establishment in February, and its fleet is due to begin arriving from the end of April. The earthworks and civils contractor is also on site, and work on the main earthworks should commence in earnest on schedule at the end of April. During the current quarter, concrete works are planned to start at the metallurgy plant and at the first hydropower plant, earthworks for the decline box cut are due to get underway, and the structural, mechanical, and platework contractor is scheduled to mobilize on site.”

Randgold’s group general manager operations Central and East Africa Willem Jacobs points out that the project’s staff complement has increased almost tenfold from the end of 2009 and now stands at 2,829. In line with Randgold’s policy of favoring nationals of the countries in which it operates, only 86 of these are expatriates, and they are there largely to transfer skills and build local capacity. Eventually, Kibali’s management team will be almost entirely Congolese.

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