Mali expects industrial gold mining to beat 2017 forecasts

BAMAKO, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Industrial gold production in Mali, Africa’s third biggest producer, is on track to exceed earlier forecasts for this year, a government official said on Friday.

Mali’s industrial miners produced 46.9 tonnes of gold last year, but the government said in May that production in 2017 would slip to about 45 tonnes as the country waited for new mines to come online next year.

Mamadou Sidibe, deputy director of the government’s Cell for Planning and Statistics, did not give an updated forecast for 2017 production. But output for the first nine months hit 35.2 tonnes, five percent higher than projected, he told Reuters.

Major investors in Mali’s gold sector include Anglo Gold Ashanti and Randgold Resources. Sidibe said 2017 output would be boosted by last month’s start of production at B2Gold’s giant Fekola project.

Fekola and Hummingbird Resources’ new Yanfolila mine are expected to hit full production next year.

The government, meanwhile, said earlier this year that it expects informal artisinal miners to produce 50 tonnes of gold this year, more than double last year’s haul of 20.1 tonnes.

If so, total production from industrial and informal mines could top 95 tonnes, a more than 40 percent rise on last year.

The gold industry contributes around a quarter of the West African government’s revenues and exports last year were valued at $2.2 billion.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Edward McAllister and Alexander Smith).