Randgold Resources reported on July 25, 2012, that open-pit mining has begun at the Kibali gold project in northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo. Shortly thereafter, on August 6, 2012, the company announced the official opening of its Gounkoto mine in west Mali.

                Kibali: Kibali development is based on a plus-10-million-oz gold deposit and 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 of operation, at an average grade of 4.1 g/mt. Randgold is developing the project and will operate the mine. Production is targeted to start toward the end of 2013.

                Open-pit mining at Kibali is under way, and decline development for the project’s underground mine began with a box cut to open up the tunnel portals. Terracing for the metallurgical plant, earthworks for the first of four hydropower stations, and infrastructure construction are also progressing well.

                As of the end of July, 13 excavators and 53 trucks were working at the Kibali site, and up to the end of June, more than 500,000 m³ of soil had been excavated. Manufacturing of the mills and hydro turbines was 85% complete, and more than 1,000 mt of structural steel and platework were en route to the site.

                The Kibali project currently employs about 3,500 people, of whom 700 are housed on site. A resettlement program was also on schedule, with 774 families already relocated to the new model village of Kokiza. Kokiza will ultimately accommodate 3,800 families, and construction of all their homes, as well as a civic infrastructure that will include schools, clinics, shops, and churches, was progressing rapidly.

                The completed Kibali 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 hydropower stations, as well as a standby high-speed thermal power generator for back-up during the dry season.

                Gounkoto: The Gounkoto gold mine in Mali was officially opened August 6 by the country’s Minister of the Economy, Finance and Budget Tiena Coulibaly, accompanied by the ministers of mines, environment, and public works. The mine is located in west Mali, bordering Senegal, and is part of the Loulo-Gounkoto mine complex, which is owned 80% by Randgold and 20% by the state of Mali.

                Gounkoto is Randgold’s fourth gold mine in Mali, and while it is a separate corporate entity with its own mining license, it is operationally linked to Loulo. The Loulo-Gounkoto complex produced 228,931 oz of gold during the six months to June 30, 2012.

                Speaking at the Gounkoto opening, Randgold Chief Executive Mark Bristow said the Loulo-Gounkoto combination is shaping up as one the largest gold mining operations in Africa. Randgold chairman Philippe Liétard described Randgold’s continuing investment in the development of the Loulo-Gounkoto mine complex as a vote of confidence in Mali’s future.

                While the country is still in the process of re-establishing its democratic institutions after its political crisis earlier this year, Randgold believes it has the will and ability to achieve a full recovery. “Mali has shown in the past that it can work through its internal problems and come out stronger on the other side, and we believe it will do so again now, setting an example for other countries not only in Africa but across the world,” Liétard said.