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Congo-owned Sokimo may hinder transfer of Kibali mine to Barrick

Kibali, one of Africa’s biggest gold mines, has been flagged as one of the five “tier-one” considered key to the business case of a merger between Barrick and Randgold. (Image courtesy of Randgold Resources.)

Congo’s Société Minière de Kilo-Moto SA, better known as Sokimo, warned Friday that if Randgold Resources transfers to Barrick its stake in Kibali gold mine, in which the state miner has a 10% interest, it would be forced to “assert its rights”.

Canada’s Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE:ABX) agreed to buy Randgold Resources (LON:RRS) this week in a $18.3 billion share deal, which will create the world’s largest gold company by value and output. Kibali, one of Africa’s biggest gold mines, was flagged as one of the five “tier-one” considered key to the business case of the proposed merger.

While Sokimo did not clarify its plans, it said in a statement quoted by Jeune Afrique (in French) it had learned of the tie-up through the press. It added the proposed business combination was “another illustration of control transfer deals between large global groups, conceived and structured to impose themselves, without any prior discussion, in the countries from which the resources that make up their wealth are extracted.”

While Sokimo did not clarify its plans, it did say the proposed merger was another example of large groups imposing themselves in the countries where they operate.

It also said the proposed merger would introduce new partners in the Kibali joint venture, especially as the deal involves China’s Shandong Gold, one of the country’s biggest gold producers, buying $300 million of shares in Barrick.

Randgold replied by saying the deal would have no effect on Kibali, noting that “there are no provisions in the joint venture agreement and the related documentation which give Sokimo any rights resulting from the proposed merger.”

It also noted that it had consulted with the sate miner’s board and executive levels, as well as with the Minister of Mines and other interested parties in the days following the announcement.

The same kind of strong nationalist language used by Sokimo was applied by Congo’s other state miner, Gecamines, against Freeport. Those threats followed the US company announcing in 2016 the sale of its stake in the Tenke copper mine to China Molybdenum. Gecamines received $100 million in a settlement.

Kibali, a joint venture between Randgold (45 percent), AngloGold (45 percent) and Sokimo, produced 596,225 ounces of gold last year at a total cash cost of $773 per ounce. Gold sales amounted to $754.9 million (100% basis) resulting in a profit from mining activity (before interests, tax and depreciation) of $287.7 million.

The operation, which cost $2.5 billion to develop, is expected to generate 730,000 ounces of gold this year.