Construction work on the Kibali project, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is expected be one of the largest gold mines in Africa, is proceeding rapidly as the developers keep their sights firmly set on first production by the end of 2013.
The project is being constructed in two overlapping phases. Phase 1, from the first quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013, covers the metallurgical plant, the first phase of the tailings storage facility, the first of the hydropower stations, the backup power plant, all shared infrastructure and the completion of a resettlement programme of near-mine communities.
The cost of Phase 1 is estimated at $920-million before provisions, contingencies and escalation. Phase 2 will include the development of the underground mine, which is expected to deliver its first ore in 2014 and to reach steady-state production by 2015, at an estimated cost of $650-million before provisions, contingencies and escalation. The current life-of-mine plan envisages average yearly production of about 600 000 oz for the first 12 years, with an average grade of 4.1 g/t.
The ten-million-ounce gold deposit is owned by Randgold Resources (45%), AngloGold Ashanti (45%) and DRC parastatal Sokimo (10%).
Project development and operation will be done by Randgold and the completed operation will comprise an integrated underground and openpit mine, a twin-circuit sulphide and oxide plant with a throughput of six-million tons a year and four self-constructed hydropower stations, as well as a standby high-speed thermal power generator for backup during the dry season.
“The experience the Randgold team has gained in developing gold mines in Africa and its philosophy of partnership with host countries and communities are the key factors in the rapid progress it is making at Kibali, while meeting the challenge of catering to a variety of interest groups,” says Randgold technical and capital projects executive John Steele.
“By the end of March, we had already shifted 200 000 m2 of ground for the foundations of the metallurgy plant and, during the second quarter, we plan to move 800 000 m2 for the bulk earthworks,” says project manager Gary Short.
“Construction of the assay laboratory is scheduled for completion by early May and the three laydown terraces should be complete by June. The openpit mining contractor started site establishment in February and its fleet is due to begin arriving from the end of April.
“The earthworks and civils contractor is on site and work on the main earthworks should begin in earnest on schedule at the end of April. During the current quarter, concrete works are planned to start at the metallurgy plant, and, at the first hydropower plant, earthworks for the decline boxcut are due to get under way and the structural, mechanical and platework contractor is scheduled to mobilise on site.”
Group GM for operations in Central and East Africa Willem Jacobs points out that the project’s staff complement has increased almost tenfold from the end of 2009 and now stands at 2 829. In line with Randgold’s policy of favouring nationals of the countries in which it operates, only 86 of these are expatriates, who are there largely to transfer skills and build local capacity. Eventually, Kibali’s management team will be almost entirely Congolese.
Randgold and AngloGold Ashanti have, to date, already spent more than $280-million, excluding acquisition costs, on the development of Kibali, much of which has gone into the DRC economy through subcontractors, taxes and levies. “We estimate that, over the life of Kibali, more than 50% of its revenues, after the capital has been repaid, will go to the DRC State,” says Jacobs.
At Kibali, as at the company’s other operations, the development has been guided by the company’s partnership philosophy and by its belief that all its stakeholders, including the communities in which it operates, should benefit from its activities,” says Randgold CEO Mark Bristow.
“A mine such as this is a big economic engine, and the establishment of Kibali in the DRC’s Eastern province will, no doubt, lift this region, as we have seen where we operate mines elsewhere in Africa,” he concludes.