Randgold Resources’ production and costs were hit in the quarter to June by a long mill downtime at Tongon and the Kibali plant’s continuing transition to a mixed-ore feed, but the company says the improvement expected in the second half of the year should boost its 2016 results to within its market guidance.
The flagship Loulo-Gounkoto complex ended the quarter ahead of target but with one of Tongon’s two milling circuits losing 46 days after a breakdown and with the Kibali mine still dealing with throughput, recovery and dilution challenges presented by multiple ore feeds, group production was down 4% quarter-on-quarter at 281,494oz while total cash cost per ounce rose 12% to $727/oz. With the higher gold price only partly buffering the impact on the bottom line, profit was down 8% at $58.7 million.
In a statement, Randgold said compared to 2015’s record interim results, however, profit for the six months to June was up 11%, production was steady and total cash cost was 1% lower. Also on the positive side, net cash generated quarter-on-quarter increased by 6% and cash holdings rose by 7% to $272.7 million.
Chief executive Mark Bristow described the quarter as one of the toughest in years but said in June and July, both Tongon and Kibali had made significant progress, with Tongon fixing the mill and completing the commissioning of its new quaternary circuit, and the new Kombokolo satellite pit at Kibali expected to improve its feed flexibility and grades. The development of Kibali as a complete project remains ahead of schedule.
“Looking ahead at the rest of the year, all our teams have been reworking and optimising their mine plans to ensure that we end 2016 within guidance. In addition, we’re intensifying our focus on critical operational issues to ensure that we deliver a substantial second-half improvement,” Mr Bristow said.
Mr Bristow said in addition to another strong performance by the Loulo-Gounkoto complex, the quarter’s highlight was the significant advances made by its exploration teams.
“The quality and scope of our exploration portfolio continue to grow and there is a solid pipeline of projects being developed through our resource triangle, from grassroots and generative work to resource definition. I believe we have at least three advanced targets, already scheduled for drill test campaigns, with real potential to become important assets,” he said.
The advanced targets include Fonondara and Kassere on the Boundiali permit in northern Côte d’Ivoire and Sofia in Senegal, which looks likely to provide a high grade, free-leaching satellite resource for the feasibility study-stage Massawa project.
In Mali, the greenfields target Bakolobi is currently being drilled while drilling at Loulo’s Gara underground mine has identified significant potential to extend its life and replace this year’s depletion at Loulo. At neighbouring Gounkoto, the feasibility study on the superpit option will be concluded by the end of this year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the discovery and rapid development of the Kombokolo satellite illustrates the continued prospectivity of the Kibali permit area and augurs well for the Moku joint venture west of Kibali.
“While the more advanced work is ongoing, our greenfields team is also feeding the base of the resource triangle with new ground. The Bambadji joint venture with ‘Iamgold’ has recently been renewed. We are applying for new permits in southern and western Mali as well as in southern Côte d’Ivoire, where we are also negotiating a new joint venture,” Mr Bristow said.
“The rest of the gold mining industry continues to shy away from exploration and there is now a consensus that new gold production will consequently continue to decline. This, in combination with growing global geopolitical and economic jitters, must be good for the gold price, at least in the long run. That’s where Randgold’s focus has always been fixed. We’re building a sustainably profitable business on a very solid foundation, but considering the internal and external challenges ahead, our teams will have to test and, if necessary, re-invent the way they operate on a continuous basis.”