Randgold is piling on the ounces in West Africa

Randgold Resources is looking at the development of a third underground mine at its Loulo-Gounkoto gold mining complex in Mali while at the same time expanding its footprint elsewhere in the region, chief executive Mark Bristow said inside the country on Monday.

According to the press release Bristow, who is leading a group of international investors on Randgold’s annual tour of its West and Central African operations, said a feasibility study on an underground mine at Gounkoto had been completed and the findings will be published alongside the company financial results later in February.

At the moment Loulo-Gounkoto boasts reserves of 8 million ounces of gold and Randgold targeted production of 640,000 ounces at the site. Randgold has been operating in Mali for almost 20 years.

The complex, which already ranks among the largest and most mechanized of its kind in Africa according the the company, is targeting to increase gold production from its existing Yalea and Gara underground mines and the Gounkoto open pit mine this year. The underground operations represent some 60% of the ore feed to its mills.

"Regardless of the potential Gounkoto underground mine, subject to the gold price remaining at current levels, the complex is forecast to up its profitability from its existing mining activities through increased production and reduced unit costs on the back of higher grades, improved recoveries and the benefits of its ongoing capital projects," Bristow said.

“We believe the Senegal-Mali shear zone, which hosts Loulo-Gounkoto, is one of the most prolific gold regions in Africa, with the capacity to rival Ghana’s Obuasi, and we are continuing our hunt for more multi-million ounce gold deposits there. We’re also expanding our presence in the area through joint ventures with junior miners who have promising early-stage projects,” Bristow said.

Randgold Resources ADR's trading on the Nasdaq (LON:RSS, NASDAQ:GOLD) has gained 45.6% in just the last three months affording the company a $8 billion valuation.

Apart from expansion at Loulo-Gounkoto, big things are expected of Randgold's Kibali mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo which boasts reserves of 12 million ounces and a rapid ramp-up in production.

Development in West and Central Africa has turned Randgold into one of the fastest growing gold miners in the world, moving it up the ranks over the past couple of years to become the sixth most valuable gold counter.