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Although Mali is a landlocked country with poor infrastructure, the government's reformed mineral code has attracted numerous foreign investors. This has resulted in several new mines (gold in particular), which has boosted the gold mining industry to be Mali's second largest income earner after cotton. Following the opening of several new gold mines, Mali is now Africa's third largest gold producer. Gold production forms the cornerstone of the Mali mining sector, representing 95% of the country's mineral production. Other commodities have not been developed due to poor access and little local demand. Diamonds are recovered from artisanal gold miners in the Kéniéba area. Several kimberlite pipes have been located, some diamondiferous, but no commercial production has occurred to date.

From 1994 to 2007, national and foreign companies were granted around 150 operating licenses along with more than 25 certificates for exploitation and more than 200 research permits. Gold mining in Mali has increased dramatically, with more than 50 tonnes in 2007 from less than half a tonne produced annually at the end of the 1980s. Mining revenue totaled some 300 billion CFA francs in 2007 more than a thirty times increase from the 1995 total national mining revenue of less than 10 billion CFA.

Government revenues from mining contracts, less than 1% of the state income in 1989 were almost 18% in 2007.

Apart from gold, Mali has potential bauxite, iron ore, base metals and phosphate deposits. However, lack of infrastructure has denied development of these resources.

Small scale phosphate mining occurs in the Tilemsi Valley in the southeast. The Tilemsi valley resources are estimated at some 10 Mt. An estimated 1.1 billion tons of bauxite is located in three areas between Kenieba and Bamako. Mali has limited iron ore resources, the best being at Balé, containing 146 Mt. A limited manganese resource exists at Asongo, containing 10 Mt.


A total of 25 kimberlites have been located in Mali, of which 8 are diamondiferous. The Kéniéba area, close to the Senegalese border has seen the recovery of several large gem quality diamonds (one reaching 233 carats). Mink International (49%) and Ashton West Africa (51%), a subsidiary of Ashton Mining, are involved in a drilling programme on the 36,000 square km Kenieba diamond concession in Mali. The joint venture discovered three new kimberlite pipes, as well as over 60 new targets. The 44 hectare Kassama anomaly on the Tambaoura Plateau bordering the Kenieba Valley could be the largest known kimberlite pipe in west Africa.


Following the opening of several new mines, including Morila and Yatela in 2001, Mali has become Africa's third largest gold producer (producing 51.60 t gold of 2003 compared to 63.69 t in 2002), after South Africa and Ghana. In 2005 gold production in the country reached just over 49 t, providing over half of the revenue for its economy. Geologists estimate that Mali has enormous potential for further gold discoveries. Exploration activities currently focus on the Birimian Series greenstone belts in the southwestern and southern parts of the country near Bougouni, Kéniéba, and Sikasso. Mali's gold reserves are estimated at 350t. Several foreign companies have successfully located and developed new gold mines, the most important being Randgold Resources and Anglo Gold, with IAMGold partnering AngloGold. Mali currently has six gold mines in full operation.

Exploration permits are issued for three years, renewable for the same period based on the work performed. The Government has developed a research permit procedure which allows the holder the exclusive right to explore within the permit zone and also entitles the holder to apply for an exploitation permit over a limited period. Exploration work undertaken over the past 20 years indicates that the major gold mineralization occurrences in Mali lie in close proximity to the crustal scale fault zones and secondary fault structures associated with them or to felsic intrusions.

The Sadiola Hill Gold mine (major shareholders being AngloGold, IAMGold and the Mali Government) is situated in the geologically favourable Kenieba/Kedegou window where the Mali-Senegal shear zone is host to the deposit. Sadiola has reserves estimated at 120 tons of gold with an annual production of around 600,000 oz of gold making it West Africa's second largest gold mine. The gold recovery plant will use cyanide leach and carbon-in-pulp technology to produce around 10 tons of gold annually over the estimated 12 year life of the project.

A mere 35km to the north of Sadiola, lies the Yatela Gold mine (AngloGold 40%, Iamgold 40% and the Mali Government 20%) which began production in mid 2001. Yatela produced 217,000 oz in total for 2003 at cash costs of US$235/oz. Yatela's resources have been estimated at 13 Mt grading 3.7 g/t containing 1.6 Moz. The small Alamoutala gold resource is conveniently located between Sadiola and Yatela.

Perth-based Resolute Mining has announced the completion of construction at the re-development of its 80%-owned Syama project in Mali. This single open-pit project is expected to produce more than 250 000 oz of gold per annum at full capacity. The company is continuing exploration around the Syama project, with excellent results.

The Morila gold mine, marked the opening of Mali's third gold mine. Randgold (40%), AngloGold (40%) and the Mali Government (20%) are joint owners of the mine, with AngloGold as operators. The mine had an estimated production of 793,992 oz in 2003. In 2003 the resources at Morila were estimated at 793,992 oz.

The existing Kalana mine is situated 300km southeast of Bamako. Kalana was privatised and sold to Ashanti Goldfields and JCI. Nelson has subsequently acquired a 70% interest in the mine and is carrying out a feasibility study on the possible re opening of the mine, producing an estimated 18,500 oz per year over four years at a cash cost of $183/oz.

Large private investments in gold mining include Anglogold-Ashanti ($250 million) in Sadiola and Yatela, and Randgold Resources ($140 million) in Morila - both multinational South African companies located respectively in the north-western and southern parts of the country.

Mineral Law & Legislation

The mineral law is based on the French civil law. The mining code was revised in 1991 (Mining Code: Ordinance N° 91 - 065 / P-CTSP of 19 September 1991 and Regulations: Decree N° 91 - 277/PM-RM of 19 September 1991. Licenses are controlled by Decree No. 91-278/PM-RM of 19 September 1991. The State owns all the mineral rights. Standard agreements are available. A scale of fees based on area is applied to mineral licenses.

A founding agreement is signed between the (foreign) company and the Malian government before exploration or mining commences. The agreement, negotiated between the parties, comprehensively fixes all the conditions that will apply to the exploration and, in the event of a discovery, exploitation periods. The conditions include work obligations, reporting, taxes, duties, duty-free arrangements, state equity participation, etc.

The mining licenses granted by the government are summarized in the table below:

Major Players in the Industry

  • Anglogold-Ashanti
  • Randgold Resources
  • Sadiola Hill Gold Mine

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