Mining report: Guatemala

Materials World magazine
29 Aug 2019

Côte d’Ivoire has emerged as a crucial player in the international gold supply chain.

Taking its name from the Birim tributary of Ghana’s Pra River, West Africa’s Birimian gold belt is now playing a key part in developing that region’s prosperity. While the Birimian belt also underpins Ghana and Mali – which overshadow most of Africa in terms of their gold production – the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has recently undertaken several actions to boost its mineral competitiveness. This includes establishing a new mining code and a dedicated mining minister.

According to exploration firm IronRidge Resources, Côte d’Ivoire’s Birimian terrain stretches to almost 3,600km2. The belt underlies the entire country, yielding three key regional gold zones – Tongon, owned by Barrick Gold Corporation at five million ounces (Moz) (c.142,000kg), Yaoure, owned by Perseus Mining at 2.8Moz (c.79,500kg), and Bonikro, owned by Forbes & Manhattan at 2.7Moz (76,500kg). New emerging regional gold mines include Abujar, owned by Tietto Minerals with 1.73Moz (49,000kg).

Investors in Côte d’Ivoire are not restricted by size. For example, they include majors such as Barrick but also several smaller exploration firms. This review looks at some of the companies contributing to and making the most of Côte d’Ivoire’s remarkable rise to importance, taking in such factors as taxation, energy supplies and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

This surge in interest is perhaps personified by Barrick’s announcement on 19 July 2019 that it is not only intending to extend the life of its Tongon gold mine but is also seeking opportunities elsewhere in the country. In a press statement, President and Chief Executive, Mark Bristow, set the context for Barrick’s intentions when he pointed out that Tongon had been running for 10 years, but Randgold Resources – now merged with Barrick – had already spent US$90mln over 20 years on exploration alone.

Bristow paid tribute to the Tongon management team – almost entirely from Côte d’Ivoire – but stressed that Tongon had three years left before it would reach exhaustion. The process of expansion has started with the investigation of nearby deposits, in particular satellites being explored along the Tongon lease area’s Badenou trend. Bristow also talked about the support his company had received from the Côte d’Ivoire government, singling out the appointment of a dedicated Minister of Mines. Tongon is on its way to producing 290,000oz (c.8,200kg) of gold this year.

IronRidge Resources

Headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, and AIM-listed, IronRidge Resources is Africa-focused. The firm continues to uncover gold resources in Chad where a substantial gold-bearing resource has been discovered, as well Ghanaian gold and lithium, and gold in Côte d’Ivoire. High-grade results have been achieved from the latter’s Zaranou gold project.

IronRidge Resources CEO and MD, Vincent Mascolo, discussed the open stance of the Côte d’Ivoire government. ‘Under the current and recently appointed Minister of Mines and Geology, the Honourable Minister Jean-Claude Kouassi, the government is very sympathetic and understanding to the challenges faced by the mining industry – Jean-Claude Kouassi has a refreshing and proactive approach to mining and his guidance will bode well for the future of mining in Côte d’Ivoire,’ he told Materials World.

IronRidge’s Zaranou results follow previous activity in the 1930s, late 1990s and 2008. Contemporary findings come from 324 reconnaissance channel and rock-chip samples collected from primary hard-rock artisanal mining sites. High priority is being given to a 9.8km target zone, where results of high-grade channel sampling results include:

  • 6m at 3.67g per tonne (g/t) gold with 1m at 15.8g/t gold
  • 3m at 4.13g/t gold with 1m at 11.2g/t, and
  • 4m at 2.39g/t gold.

Of additional importance are rock-chip samples featuring 69.6g/t, 48.8g/t, 25.3g/t and 20.5g/t gold.

Support for operations is being provided via in-house fixed-wing drone surveys aimed at generating high-resolution topography and aerial imagery base maps. In turn, planning is underway for an air-core drilling programme and for regional soil sampling to start after the wet season. Mascolo reviewed the results for Côte d’Ivoire as a whole.

‘IronRidge Resources is one of the largest tenure holders for gold in Cote d’Ivoire, comprising three province-scale tenure positions at varying stages of development. The Vavoua gold portfolio, which we acquired 100% in June 2019, is highly prospective, with recently acquired aeromagnetics data confirming a strike extension of over 40km along a major shear zone which also hosts the 1.73Moz JORC-compliant Abujar gold project to the south of the Vavoua portfolio,’ he said.

‘In addition, the Zaranou licence contains an extraordinary level and intensity of artisanal workings over a 50km strike which includes a zone of intensive hard-rock artisanal workings over 16km strike. This, combined with the recently announced high-grade channel and rock-chip sampling results and including 6m at 3.7g/t gold and up to 69g/t gold, indicates significant potential over the licence area and the ability to advance it rapidly. Although early stage, the results to date are impressive and indicative of the potential to develop into a gold mine in the future.

‘The Kineta portfolio is also very promising, with consistent and high-grade rock-chip sampling results and coincident anomalous trenching results in soils up to 3g/t gold and rock chip sampling up to 46g/t gold within an 8km strike zone.’

Tietto Minerals

Based in Perth, Western Australia, ASX-listed Tietto Minerals is fast-tracking development of its Abujar gold project, which is about 30km from the major regional city of Daloa in central western Côte d’Ivoire. The company has reported exceptional high–grade shallow gold intercepts from ongoing extensional and infill drilling programmes at Abujar. At time of writing, intersections from Tietto Minerals’ 30km drill programme indicate growth within its 1.7Moz (48,000kg) gold resource base.

Key aspects of Abujar include:

  • A 146% upgrade identified in April 2019 comprising 30.6Mt at 1.4g/t gold for 1.73Moz (49,000kg)
  • Three contiguous tenements spread over 1,114km2, and
  • A 90% under-explored 70km long shear zone.

Tietto Minerals described Abujar as close to good regional and local infrastructure to facilitate exploration and development, at only 15km from the nearest tarred road and grid power.

This proximity to transportation links is also reported by IronRidge Resources where, Mascolo said, ‘all of our project areas are well serviced by sealed roads and power, and by being close to nearby townships. This is one of the significant advantages of operating in Côte d’Ivoire’. In April 2019, Tietto announced a major increase in the mineral resource for the Abujar project. Inferred gold resources were increased by 146% across two deposits, Abujar Gludehi (AG) and Abujar Pischon Golikro. The northern half of the AG deposit hosts 15.7 million tonnes at 2.1g/t for 1.06Moz (30,000kg) over a 1.4km section.

Tietto anticipates that further favourable resource updates will apply at the end of this year. Its two-diamond drill rigs are operating over the AG deposit with significant drilling intercepts since April 2019 of:

  • Diamond hole ZDD061 on Line 22 featuring 7m at 20.63g/t from 254m within a broad zone of 15m at 9.9g/t. This includes 1m at 103.9g/t and 1m at 34.31g/t Au ZDD035 (Line 26B), which incorporates 4m at 100.73g/t and in turn, 1m at 394.36g/t
  • Diamond hole ZDD058 on Line 25 with 7m at 15.5g/t from 179m within a broad zone of 14m at 8.57g/t from 172m, and also hosting 4m at 25.75 g/t from 179m
  • Diamond hole ZDD058 on Line 25 with 7m at 15.5g/t from 179m within a broad zone of 14m at 8.57g/t from 172m, and also hosting 4m at 25.75g/t from 179m
  • Diamond hole ZDD058 on Line 25 with 7m at 15.5g/t from 179m within a broad zone of 14m at 8.57g/t from 172m, and also hosting 4m at 25.75g/t from 179m
  • 10m at 25.85g/t from 115m, including 3m at 79.58g/t, 1m at 35.42g/t, 1m at 100.62g/t and 1m at 102.71g/t, and
  •  6m at 12.0g/t including 1m at 70.35g/t.

How a mining project obtains its energy supplies is always a major consideration. ’We do, however, believe that Côte d’Ivoire is exceptionally well-positioned to provide energy solutions to future mining projects by virtue of its well-developed infrastructure network of roads and power distribution, Mascolo told Materials World. ‘Additionally, the burgeoning potential for solar and stored energy power solutions is something that the company sees future in and it wants to be part of.’

Corporate social responsibility

In light of the closure, Bristow described Barrick’s commitment to CSR. ‘We are also seeking to advance the agribusiness projects designed to provide economic opportunity and food security for the local community after the mine’s closure,’ he said.

In addition, he looked at Tongon’s safety record which, he said, ‘remains exemplary and to date has worked more than 8.7 million lost-time injury-free hours. Its safety and environmental certifications have been renewed and its water management has improved further. In conjunction with an NGO, Tongon continues effectively to manage public health on the mine and in the surrounding community through malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention programmes’.

Mascolo said IronRidge is also committed to CSR. ‘Through our corporate and social responsibility programmes we focus on making a positive impact on local communities, from an early exploration stage, employing local workers and developing the local industry to enrich the communities by leaving a positive and enduring legacy,’ he said.

‘We are completely established and focused in Côte D’Ivoire with full-time logistics and exploration teams – our in-country activities to date employed in excess of 16 full-time and up to 75 part-time Ivorian nationals.

‘Examples of our CSR activities include providing medical assistance and training to both our employees and local community members, rehabilitating affected land after exploration activities, and supporting community initiatives on an ad-hoc basis.’

Great prosperity

The Ivory Coast is a country enjoying a boom in its mining sector. A competitive corporate tax regime of 25% offers benefits to government and investors. Royalties on an ad valorem sliding scale, which factors in real-time gold pricing and CSR initiatives, also combine to boost Côte d’Ivoire’s prosperity.