Mali’s military government said it has signed an agreement with Russia to build a gold refinery in the capital Bamako, one of a slew of deals between the two countries as Russia seeks to extend its regional influence.
The accord, a non-binding memorandum of understanding, involves building a 200-tonnes-per-year refinery, minister Alousséni Sanou said in an interview on state television broadcast late on Tuesday.
The memorandum is valid for four years, he said, without giving a timeline for construction. If built, it would be the West African country’s largest gold refinery.
“This will allow us not only to control all gold production but also to be able to correctly apply all taxes and duties,” Sanou said.
The deal is the latest sign of Russia’s deepening interests in Mali, one of Africa’s largest gold producers, just as Western influence there wanes.
Russia’s state nuclear energy company Rosatom signed an deal with Mali in October to explore for minerals and produce nuclear energy. Sanou said he had also signed a deal with a Russian firm to build a 200- to 300-megawatt solar power plant by mid-2025.
Mali’s military, which took power in a 2021 coup, last year kicked out troops from former colonial power France, who were fighting Islamist militants, and teamed up with the Russian military contractor Wagner Group, which has operations across Africa, including lucrative mining deals.
Wagner has been accused of human rights abuses in Mali’s fight against Islamists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Industrial gold production in Mali totalled 66.2 tonnes last year, mostly from mines owned by Barrick Gold, B2Gold, Resolute Mining, Allied Gold and Endeavour Mining.
(By Tiemoko Diallo and Hereward Holland; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mark Heinrich)