South African mining house, Randgold has been on a buying spree and appears to have picked up several bargains, including the highly desirable Syama mine in Mali. But the grand adventure, says PRISCILLA ROSS, has only just begun.
Randgold, the intrepid South African mining house, underlined its considerable presence in the rest of Africa with the recent pouring of its first gold in Mali. In August 1996 its international arm, Randgold Resources, obtained a 65% stake in the world class Syama gold mine, as well as other assets, from the Australian mining giant, BHP International, through the acquisition of BHP Minerals Mali Inc for $82m. The other assets included a 20% shareholding in the advanced gold exploration project, Loulo - with the right to acquire a further 31% - and BHP's Yanfolila and Morila exploration permits.
The acquisition increased Randgold Resources' total ground-holdings in West and Central Africa to 5,400 square miles and its resource base to more than 6m ounces of gold. This, said Chief Executive, Dr Mark Bristow, changed the company's profile from a pure exploration business to that of a significant resource and mining company with a variety of exploration projects in various stages of development, proven ounces in the ground and a major producing mine.
First results at Syama under its new management are due at the end of January. Early indications have been encouraging with particular attention being paid to improving the gold yield, upgrading plant and equipment, introducing new mining practices and developing a more stable labour relations climate. Randgold Resources aims to sustain production at the mine at around 1.8m tonnes of ore a year
Elsewhere in Africa, Randgold is at an advanced stage with the Golden Ridge project in Tanzania. In Burkina Faso the company is doing various sampling programmes on the Santenga project. Resource definition from advanced targets are also on the cards by the end of this year. In Senegal the Kenieba permit has been signed and Randgold has consolidated its strategic holding with six significant targets being followed up this season.
In Cote d'Ivoire, out of the initial 23 targets, six remain to be assessed and three have been selected for further exploration. In Gabon exploration is proceeding on regional targets and follow-up targets.
Randgold's 1996 exploration expenditure for South Africa, joint ventures and outside South Africa was over R40m; the 1997 forecast is well over R90m