Loulo-Gounkoto gold beats guidance, replaces depleted reserves

Barrick’s Loulo-Gounkoto mine complex delivered production of 680,215 ounces of gold in 2020, exceeding its full year guidance despite Covid-19 and other challenges.

At the same time, it improved its safety performance, reducing its Lost-Time Injury Frequency Rate by more than half compared to 2019 and achieving a lost-time injury-free year in its underground operations. The complex retained its ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 health, safety and environmental certifications.

The underground operations have reached a world-class level of automation, hard on the heels of pace-setter Kibali. The two existing underground mines, Yalea and Gara, will shortly be joined by a third when Gounkoto underground delivers its first ore tonnes planned for the second quarter of this year.

In another major technological advance, Loulo commissioned Barrick’s first solar power plant in the Africa and Middle East region, delivering 20MW of capacity into the microgrid. Projects scheduled for completion in 2021 include the commissioning of a water treatment plant, an expansion of power generating capacity and a powerline upgrade to support the new Gounkoto underground mine.

The complex continued to support and develop local businesses, spending more than $375 million with local contractors and suppliers in 2020. Its accelerator program, designed to equip budding businessmen and women with commercial skills, established 48 entrepreneurs and granted them credit totalling about $390,000.

Loulo-Gounkoto’s local content program was further improved by the formation of a transport consortium which incorporates most of its existing Malian transport providers.

In a presentation to local media and stakeholders at the Loulo mine, Barrick president and chief executive Mark Bristow said that thanks to continuing successful exploration, the complex’s gold reserves were now larger than they had been 15 years ago, and indications were that it would once more have replaced ounces depleted by mining in 2020.

“The Loulo district lies at the heart of one of the world’s most prolific gold regions. Over the past 15 years, this has delivered more world-class discoveries than any other, and our extensive exploration programs are designed not only to replenish our reserves but to find our next Tier One mine,” he said.

Loulo and Gounkoto paid and declared combined dividends of $240 million for 2020. Over the past almost 24 years, Barrick and its legacy company Randgold Resources contributed $7.7 billion to Mali’s economy in the form of taxes, royalties, salaries and payments to local suppliers.

Its annual contribution amounts to between 5% and 10% of the country’s GDP.

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