Final preparations are being made for the first gold pour for the Kibali gold project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The project has advanced to its immediate preproduction development stage, with the pour targeted for October this year.

More than a million tonnes of ore from the open pit mine had already been stockpiled to feed the metallurgical plant’s oxide circuit, which is scheduled to start commissioning in the third quarter this year.

This was according to chief executive Mark Bristow, who stated: We are on the brink of delivering another world-class gold mine to our stakeholders. The first of its size in this country, it will be an enormous economic boon to the DRC, the Province Orientale, the local community and our investors.”

All 36 power generator sets have arrived on site and the backup diesel power station is on schedule, with the first six of the 15 generator sets needed for plant start-up already commissioned. The construction of the first hydrostation is on track for completion in quarter one of next year and will be followed by three further stations. Work on the underground mine is also progressing well, with the development of the declines ahead of schedule and the vertical shaft due to reach a depth of 183m by year end.

In line with Randgold’s policy of local employment and upskilling, 71 people from the local community as well as another 22 DRC nationals are currently being trained as plant operators and supervisors at Randgold’s Tongon mine in Côte d’Ivoire and its Morila mine in southern Mali. Like Randgold’s other mines, Kibali’s management team is being drawn largely from host-country nationals.

In the meantime the relocation programme, one of the most complex and sensitive parts of the project’s development, is nearing completion, with more than 3 400 families already resettled in the new model village of Kokiza. Randgold is currently in the process of handing over the village to a local administration.

Bristow said they were particularly proud of their record of meeting their commitments at every stage of the project, starting soon after its acquisition, when they succeeded in doubling the size of its reserves as forecast in their initial submissions to government. “Since then, we have achieved all that we promised, and more.”

Bristow said Randgold strove to be a productive and accountable partner to its host countries and the mutually beneficial relationships it cultivated were crucial to the development of sustainably profitable businesses in these countries.

“With Kibali now in the home stretch, the support of the various DRC authorities is essential to ensure that everything goes smoothly from here on, and that that first bar of gold is produced and delivered on time,” he said.

Bristow noted that the recent drop in the gold price was having major repercussions for the mining industry, with projects being cancelled, budgets cut and growth plans revised downwards.

“Kibali represents an initial investment of US$1.7 billion by Randgold and its partner AngloGold Ashanti, who are also funding SOKIMO, the DRC government-owned gold mining company that holds a 10% carried interest in the joint venture. It is my hope that it will serve as the platform for further gold discoveries and developments in the DRC. We are also continuing with our engagement with the DRC government in its review of the mining code, and we trust that this will not be amended in a way that discourages further investment here. The current code serves the State and the industry fairly and well and Kibali is the first gold mine to be developed under this code. What is required is not a change to that code, but its effective application,” he said.

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