Gold production at the Kibali mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo is rising steadily on the back of the optimization of its automated underground operation, and it is on track to beat its guidance of 730,000 ounces (oz) for this year, Randgold Resources CEO Mark Bristow said this week. The record results expected for the second quarter were achieved without a single lost-time injury, Bristow added.

Following the example of Randgold’s Loulo underground mines, Kibali had successfully transitioned from contract mining to owner mining earlier this month, Bristow said. As at Loulo, the move is expected to deliver significant cost and efficiency benefits, while accelerating the transfer of skills to the mine’s Congolese workforce.

“Kibali hosts one of the world’s largest underground gold mines and the aim of owner mining is to give us complete control over the day-to-day operations, with everyone focused on the same goal and compliance with the mining plan,” Bristow said. “We’re confident that we’ll achieve the same results here as we did at Loulo, but we’ve tweaked that model a little to take into account the lessons we learned there as well as Kibali’s specific circumstances. We’ve also brought in personnel who were involved in the Loulo transition to support Kibali’s Congolese workforce with the transition.”

Another advantage of owner mining is that it has allowed them to introduce “Africa First” technology at Kibali, notably in the automation of the underground materials handling system, Bristow explained. “We continue to look at other technologies, which could assist us in the optimal development of this great asset,” he said.

A further major milestone is being passed with the current commissioning of Azambi, Kibali’s third and last hydropower station and its only remaining significant capital project.  Azambi is expected to start delivering power within the next month.