Randgold Resources poured the first gold bar at the huge Kibali gold project in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on September 24. The project schedule had previously called for the first pour to take place during the fourth quarter of 2013. 

The Kibali project is owned by Randgold (45%), AngloGold Ashanti (45%), and the Congolese parastatal Sokimo (10%). Randgold is developing the project and will operate the mine.

Kibali currently has 11 million oz of gold reserves in a resource base of 21 million oz. The life-of-mine plan envisages average production of about 600,000 oz/y of gold for the first 12 years of operation. 

With its earlier-than-scheduled start-up, the project now is expected comfortably to exceed its 2013 production target of 30,000 oz and is on track to meet Randgold’s 2014 production forecast of 550,000 oz.

The Kibali project is being developed in two concurrent phases at an estimated initial cost of $1.7 billion. The first phase is an open-pit operation. An underground mine will follow and is scheduled to access ore in 2015, with stoping operations starting later that year.

The Kibali plant’s oxide circuit has been commissioned and is treating oxide ore from a stockpile of more than 1 million mt already produced by the open-pit mine. A sulphide circuit will be commissioned in the second quarter of 2014. 

Kibali project development included the resettlement of more than 4,000 families to a new model village and substantial upgrading of local infrastructure. 

“Important as this day is, it is still only the first step in achieving this project’s great potential,” said Kibali general manager Louis Watum. “With gold sales set to start next month, our focus is now on commissioning the rest of the metallurgical plant and the hydropower stations, as well as progressing the underground development.”