Iamgold, AngloGold Ashanti to suspend mining at Yatela

16th September 2013 By: Henry Lazenby - Creamer Media Deputy Editor: North America

TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The joint venture (JV) between Canadian miner Iamgold, gold major AngloGold Ashanti and the Mali government has decided to stop mining at the Yatela gold mine, in Mali, at the end of the month, citing openpit safety issues and the lower gold price as the main reasons for the decision.

The JV, known as Société d'Exploration des Mines d'Or de Yatela, or Yatela, on Monday said that despite the gradual dismantling of the site from September 30, processing activities at the heap leach pads and previously mined ore would continue until the end of 2016, since the end of the mining activities did not yet mean the end of the mine.

The Yatela mine is located more than 600 km north-west of the Malian capital of Bamako and about 25 km north of the Sadiola mine, another Iamgold/AngloGold JV that produces gold at a significantly lower total cash cost than Yatela.

AngloGold Ashanti, as the Yatela mine operator, would focus on compliance with regulations governing the resulting staff reduction, and the contractors would be responsible for cancelling their employees’ contracts.

Iamgold said negotiations would continue with the labour union with regard to the JV’s employees on any closure-related issues.

The company added that the Yatela community development activities would not be affected by halting mining activities. In fact, a new plan for social development, focusing on expanding and marketing community development and current socioeconomic projects, was being developed.

Further, all discussions relating to the Yatela closure plan would continue under the supervision of the Yatela National Closure Commission until a final agreement had been reached.

The Yatela project was started in 1997 and was issued a mining licence in 2000, before the first gold pour in 2001. The initial planned mine life was six years, and according to that plan, the mine would have closed in 2007, had it not been for exploration efforts opening up other economically exploitable deposits on the property and deferring the closure date several times.

"It has been extraordinarily difficult to extend the life-of-mine at Yatela given this environment of rising costs and falling gold prices. We recognise the contribution of the contracted and employed Malian mineworkers to the Yatela mine; however, we and our partners believe that this is the best decision at this time as the mining activities at Yatela are no longer capable of making a positive contribution to any of our stakeholders,” Iamgold executive VP and COO Gordon Stothart said.

“While circumstances have led to this decision to wind down the mining operations at Yatela, we are hopeful that a longer-term future can be forged with our partners at the nearby Sadiola mine. We are appreciative of the government's efforts to provide support for the transformation of Sadiola to process sulphide ore and help us find solutions to keep us engaged in mining within Mali,” Iamgold president and CEO Steve Letwin noted.