Iamgold has launched a full feasibility study of possible expansion at its Essakane open-pit gold operations in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where it achieved commercial production in July 2010 and where it officially opened the mine with a ceremonial gold pour in early October. Current mine design calls for production of an average of 315,000 oz/y of gold over an initial mine life of 12 years at average cash costs of between $400 and $410/oz.

The Essakane expansion feasibility study is based on ongoing exploration drilling success and will consider an expansion of production to between 450,000 oz/y and 470,000 oz/y. Iamgold has budgeted $14 million to complete the study, increase the size of the Essakane assay lab to accommodate increased drilling, and place advance orders for some long-lead-time equipment. Assuming a positive outcome to the study, Iamgold anticipates construction of the expansion project could begin during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Over time, Essakane plant feed will include three ore types, beginning predominantly with saprolite and transition material (saprock) during the first three years of operation. Development planning called for fresh rock mill feed to increase gradually from year four onward. Milling rates were planned at 7.5 million mt/y during the first three years of operation, 6.5 million mt during the fourth year, and 5.4 million mt/y thereafter, when the mill would be processing only fresh rock.

The current feasibility study is expected to demonstrate the fresh-rock capacity of the mill could be doubled to about 10.8 million mt/y.

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