Randgold Resources (NASDAQ: GOLD) and Newcrest Mining, two of the world’s leading gold mining companies, have signed a heads of agreement to negotiate a formal joint venture to explore areas of interest in southeastern Côte d’Ivoire.
Both companies already have operations in the West African country. Randgold runs its Tongon mine in northern Côte d’Ivoire, 55 km south of the nation’s border with Mali, and Newcrest’s Bonikro mine, in southern Côte d’Ivoire, is 250 km northwest of the nation’s commercial capital of Abidjan.
If the joint venture goes ahead, Randgold will manage the exploration program and operate any mines that may be developed.
Each company brings a deep pool of experience to the joint venture.
Randgold has built five mines — all but one of which was developed on deposits discovered by its own geologists, in three African countries (Loulo, Gounkoto and Morila in Mali, Tongon in Côte d’Ivoire and Kibali in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) — while Newcrest, the largest gold producer listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and one of the world’s largest gold mining companies, has mines in Australia (Cadia Valley and Telfer), Papua New Guinea (Lihir), Indonesia (Gosowong) and Côte d’Ivoire (Bonikro). Randgold’s CEO Mark Bristow noted in prepared remarks that “the bigger the footprint, the greater the opportunity, and both Newcrest and Randgold believe in Côte d’Ivoire and the potential for finding world-class gold deposits.”
Newcrest’s chief development officer Michael Nossal noted that the agreement “would bring together two of the world’s leading gold explorers and miners to unlock the mineral potential of an under-explored area of Côte d’Ivoire.”
Neither company, however, when contacted by The Northern Miner, was willing to offer many details of the plan.
“It’s still early days, and we can’t give you anything more at this stage,” Kathy du Plessis, Randgold’s media and investor relations contact, said in an email.
Jason Mills, a Newcrest spokesman, wrote in an email that the new joint-venture is “an opportunity to share knowledge and resources to maximize chances of a successful discovery and potentially mine development.
“We’re not providing any more detail on target areas or tenement locations at this stage, apart from the general area described in the release,” he continued. “The area is a reasonable distance south of our Bonikro operations. Both Randgold and Newcrest will provide updates moving forward.”
Over the last 18 months, Newcrest has entered into many farm-ins and joint ventures with junior explorers and other miners, as the company seeks to restock its exploration pipeline, Mills added.
Earlier in November the Australian mining company entered a strategic alliance with PT Antam (ASX: ATM), an Indonesian mining company, to undertake exploration for gold and copper deposits in several prospective areas: West Java, East Java, South Sumatera, Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, Halmahera and the Mollucas Islands.
Newcrest also has a fifty-fifty joint-venture with Harmony Gold Mining (NYSE: HMY) for the Wafi Golpu project in Papua New Guinea, and joint ventures or shared ownership arrangements with other companies, Mills said.
In Côte d’Ivoire, Newcrest said the open-pit mine life could be extended by finding more satellite deposits for processing at the Bonikro facility.
Mining at the Hire deposit, 12 km southeast of Bonikro, for example, began in late 2014, and more exploration is underway to find deposits within 30 km of the mine. The company holds three mining licences in the area around Bonikro.
Bonikro produces gold doré and poured its first gold in October 2008. In the financial year ended in June 30, the open-pit mine produced 137,696 oz. gold.
Randgold’s near-mine exploration would extend Tongon’s life by developing satellite deposits and converting the resource potential below the existing pits. Speaking at a Randgold-sponsored golf day on Oct. 22, Bristow noted that the company is “building a solid portfolio of targets here, and we’re still adding to our exploration permits.
“We’ve always believed in the prospectivity of Côte d’Ivoire, and we are becoming increasingly confident that it will deliver our next world-class discovery,” Bristow added. “Our Boundiali permit in particular hosts exciting prospects.”
According to the World Bank, Côte d’Ivoire’s average real growth rate reached 8.5% annually between 2012 and 2015, which is one of the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank forecasts the country’s real gross domestic product will reach 7.8% in 2016 and 8% in 2017.