Iamgold reported on May 3, 2010, it expects to begin processing ore through the mill at its new Essakane gold mine in northeast Burkina Faso in June, four to six weeks ahead of the previously announced production schedule and five to six months earlier than the originally projected start-up date of year-end 2010.The operation is expected to produce more than 500,000 oz of gold from start-up through to the end of 2011. Life-of-mine production estimates remain at 315,000 oz/y through to 2018. Life-of-mine average cash costs are projected at $400 to $410/oz. The project is coming in on budget at a capital cost of about $443 million.
Essakane is owned 90% by Iamgold and 10% by the government of Burkina Faso. Overall construction was 90% complete as of early May, and mechanical commissioning of a number of key process and infrastructure components was complete or under way, including the 27.5-MW power generation plant, the freshwater supply system, and the eight CIL process tanks. The primary crusher is not required for the initial phase of processing, as only soft oxide ore will be fed through the plant for the first few months. Completion of the crushing plant will occur about six weeks after the processing facility is finished.

Since the fourth quarter of 2009, Essakane’s staff has been concentrating on mining the Phase I pit, including pre-stripping of waste rock and construction of ore stockpiles. A total of 20 million mt of material was to be mined during the pre-production period, and the operation will have 5 million mt of ore stockpiled at mill start-up.

In parallel with the construction and start-up, Iamgold is spending $12 million on resource development and a further $2 million on regional exploration during 2010. The resource development effort is focused primarily on contiguous extensions to the Essakane main zone orebody and conversion of inferred resources below and on-trend with the current main pit. The regional exploration team is carrying out a drill campaign to examine the projected extensions along strike of the main zone. A detailed airborne magnetic geophysical survey was completed in the first quarter of 2010 to enhance the company’s understanding of the regional geology.