Côte d’Ivoire has the potential to become one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s key exploration destinations, says Randgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow.

This is if if its government and mining companies join in a long term commitment to the development of a sustainable mining industry in the country. Bristow said the Côte d’Ivoire was highly prospective for gold and other metals but underexplored relative to some of its West African peers. In addition, it had arguably the most advanced infrastructure in the region – a key consideration for investors – as well as a competent civil service. To exploit these advantages, the Ivorian government should ensure that its mining code, currently under review, remains investor-friendly and that it acts as a partner to the mining companies in the creation of long term economic value to benefit all stakeholders.

Randgold owns and operates Côte d’Ivoire’s largest gold mine at Tongon and Bristow said the company’s geologists were aggressively exploring its portfolio of 15 permits elsewhere in the country for further multi-million ounce gold deposits. Tongon, which went into production at the end of 2010, has already produced more than 600 000 ounces of gold and contributed more than US$50 million to the State in the form of royalties and taxes. The mine was commissioned amid the unrest that followed the disputed outcome of the presidential election and initially suffered from an erratic power supply from the Ivorian grid as well as some plant start-up issues. These were being addressed through a number of plant expansion and upgrade projects, Bristow said, and the mine’s performance was steadily improving.

Tongon’s positive impact on the Ivorian economy was not confined to its contribution to the state coffers, Bristow said. Randgold‘s local employment policy had directly created almost 1 800 jobs at the mine while its training programmes had significantly increased the country’s technical skills base. The mine had also developed a market for goods and services from local suppliers.

“In line with our partnership philosophy, we regard the local community as an important stakeholder in Tongon, and since the start we have worked closely with our community on projects designed to improve education and health, and to support agriculture. As part of this programme, I’ll be handing over a tractor, a water tower, three teachers’ houses and three more classrooms to our neighbouring villages. As with all the preceding projects, we’ll be monitoring these to ensure that the villages get the full benefit from them,” he said.

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