Barrick and Mali: inside a 20-year partnership

The recent history of gold mining in Mali is one linked to the involvement of foreign companies. In 1996, IAMGOLD and AngloGold Ashanti, headquartered in Canada and South Africa respectively, opened the Sadiola gold mine, and four years later, Randgold partnered with AngloGold Ashanti to operate the Morila mine in southern Mali.

Over the last nineteen years, Randgold has merged with Barrick, and the new company has significantly increased its investment in Malian gold. Barrick’s mines account for more than 40% of the country’s gold production, making it a key player in Mali’s most profitable export, and the company’s investments accounted for around 6% of Mali’s GDP in 2018, establishing a clear connection between Barrick’s wealth and the Malian economy.

However, tying the fate of Malian mining to that of a single company poses an inherent threat to the sector, with Mali reliant on the performance of Barrick. With the company’s flagship Morila mine set to close this year, following the production of 209 tonnes of gold over its two-decade lifespan, we consider the legacy Barrick’s operations have left, and what the future will hold for Malian mining. Two decades of development

Barrick has involved itself directly in Mali for close to two decades now, with CEO Mark Bristow highlighting the company’s achievements in the country at a recent press conference to commemorate the partnership, and finalise plans for the closure of Moira. Bristow noted that Barrick has contributed around $6.5bn to the Malian economy since Randgold first developed the Moira project, with around $2.6bn of this total in taxes, royalties and dividends.

These projects have underpinned a dramatic increase in the productivity of the country’s gold mining sector, with annual gold production leaping from around 5,000 tons in 1990 to 53,000 tons in 2017, according to the United States Geological Survey. In more recent years, the country’s impressive mining sector, the third-largest producer of gold in Africa, has contributed to an increase in year-on-year GDP growth from 2.3% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2016, and an increase in export growth from 2.5% to 2.7% over the same period.

The company has also paid $190m towards local businesses over the course of its involvement in Mali, as it aims to simultaneously turn a profit and empower local companies and workers. Bristow noted that all of the company’s Malian mines were operated by Malian executives, and 95% of the employees at the Loulo-Gounkoto complex, […]

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