In terms of the agreement, Randgold will lead and fund a development plan designed to rebuild Obuasi as a viable long-life mining business with an attractive cost structure and returns.
Obuasi, located in the Ashanti region of Ghana 320km northwest of the capital Accra, is a large, high-grade deposit with proven and probable ore reserves of 24.53Mt at 6.70g/t for 5.29Moz, part of a substantial mineral resource base.
In 2012, AngloGold Ashanti initiated a programme to modernise the mine, principally by starting to develop a ramp access that will ultimately run from surface to high-grade blocks of ore underground. The ramp will supplement current vertical hoisting infrastructure and help to debottleneck the underground operation by allowing for greater ease in transporting people and materials underground, and transporting ore to surface. This is a necessary step ahead of the envisaged transformation of the mine into a modern, mechanised operation.
At the end of 2014, AngloGold Ashanti converted Obuasi to limited operations, ceasing underground production, retrenching the workforce, but continuing to process tailings and starting a feasibility study on the redevelopment of the mine. Development of the decline ramp has continued over this period.
The development plan will build on this feasibility study with the intention of establishing a more focused, efficient, mechanised high-grade operation, and is expected to take about four months to complete. If the development plan meets both parties’ investment criteria, and assuming all other conditions are satisfied, Randgold and AngloGold Ashanti will form a new joint venture company.
Randgold and AngloGold Ashanti will then be jointly responsible for funding the redevelopment of Obuasi in line with the agreed development plan. A Randgold group entity will be appointed as operator of the mine, and Randgold and AngloGold Ashanti will appoint an equal number of directors to the board of the joint venture company, with board and shareholder decisions to be approved by both parties.
Mark Bristow, chief executive of Randgold, said: “Obuasi is a world-class resource. We now have to see if we can convert it into a world-class mine. We have a long history of cooperation with AngloGold Ashanti and we look forward to working with them again on charting a new course towards a viable future for Obuasi.”
Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, CEO of AngloGold Ashanti, commented: “AngloGold Ashanti has since 2012 effected a range of improvements to modernise Obuasi and – in line with its strategy – has progressed a feasibility study as the critical next step toward breathing new life into this important mine. Our partnership with Randgold has proved successful for well over a decade in bringing value from sustainable gold mining to all stakeholders and we believe that pooling the extensive expertise and the capital of these two companies will improve our ability to bring Obuasi’s world-class high-grade gold deposit to account.”