Mark Bristow, the chief executive of Randgold Resources. File picture: Dean Hutton
Tongon – A continuing review of its Nielle permit which hosts the Tongon gold mine in Côte d’Ivoire has confirmed multiple opportunities for extending the life of the operation beyond the current four-year horizon, Randgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow said on Sunday.

In a statement issued after an on-site media briefing, he said near-mine targets with high resource potential were the prime focus of the exploration programme at Tongon, while elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire Randgold was building a solid permit portfolio towards its next big discovery, in line with its belief that the country was one of West Africa’s most prospective gold regions.

“Tongon was born in the midst of a political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire and has since had to overcome many challenges of an external as well as an operational nature.

The team has persevered, however, and ended 2016 with a gold production record for the fourth quarter of the year.

"Building on that base, with a strong emphasis on costs as well as maximising the benefits of its plant upgrades and expansion, Tongon is on track to achieve its production guidance of 285 000 ounces of gold for 2017,” Bristow said.

He noted that Randgold’s engagement with Côte d’Ivoire dated back to its acquisition of the Nielle permit in 1996.

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The prefeasibility study on Tongon was completed in 2001 but plans to develop the mine had to be put on hold with the outbreak of civil war the following year. However, Randgold retained its confidence in the country’s future and resumed work on the project in 2007. The mine was commissioned in 2010 amidst another political upheaval.

“The past year has again been a difficult one as Côte d’Ivoire met further challenges in its nation-building process. These included a wave of strikes and protest actions which impacted negatively on civil society, the economy, and the mining industry.

"As evidenced by our continuing investment here, however, our belief in the country and in its people’s ability to work through these difficulties remains unshaken,” Bristow said.