VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Despite dealing with certain critical issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), gold producer Randgold Resources has kept capital projects at its 45%-owned Kibali mine on track, the company announced Monday.
The mine dealt with a tough first half of 2016 with the Kibali plant’s transition to a mixed-ore feed, including ore from the new Kombokolo and Rhino satellite pits.
The LSE- and Nasdaq-listed company said it had made further progress with the entire operation’s performance improvement in the second half of the year, specifically focusing on metallurgical process enhancements, which had resulted in improved recovery rates.
The new Kombokolo and Rhino satellite pits had added operational flexibility, allowing the Kibali mill’s average throughput to top nameplate capacity for the year.
Randgold noted, however, that grade control will remain a challenge until the underground mine is fully commissioned later in the year. Construction of the underground mine is reported to be on schedule and the commissioning of its shaft system in the third quarter will complete the development of the Kibali complex. Kibali is funding its own capital expenditure and has started paying back shareholder loans.
The gold miner also progressed its interests outside the Kibali joint venture with the completion of a regional geophysical survey of the Ngayu belt and the start of follow-up fieldwork at the Moku project, next to Kibali. With the regional mapping and a stream sediment survey now complete, Randgold has generated several targets with strong mineralisation in bedrock and the focus is now on evaluating and prioritising the various targets ahead of any drilling campaign.
In a release to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online, Randgold said that, despite the ongoing operational improvement work at the Kibali mine, all Kibali’s capital projects remain on track. These include the Ambarau hydropower station, which is being commissioned and will start generating power “within a matter of weeks”, while work has started on the mine’s third power plant Azambi, which is being built entirely by Congolese contractors.
CEO Mark Bristow said the DRC government has delayed the payment of tax refunds. “While government has agreed to the refunds, and has made some payments, the recent political difficulties in the country have distracted the administration from the settlement of these issues and the amount outstanding had increased at the end of 2016.
“The situation is exacerbated by the foreign exchange risk posed by the continuing depreciation of the Congolese franc, and we trust it will be resolved now that the political transition has been settled,” Bristow stated.
Meanwhile, Randgold has revised its community investment schedule and now plans to proceed with Kibali’s palm oil project initiative on a phased basis. The project for which Kibali will supply seed capital, support and sponsorship, will eventually employ as many as 15 000 people. Another substantial agribusiness venture, the maize project, is also progressing and its pilot farm has demonstrated that it is possible to harvest twice in a single year, Randgold reported.
In 2016, Kibali invested more than $2-million in local development projects, with a strong focus on education. A school ownership campaign, designed to engage parents in the education of their children, was successfully started at schools in the Kokiza, Durba and Watsa villages. Likewise, several proud Kokiza homeowners were recognised in the yearly pride of ownership competition.