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Barrick Gold Corporation’s Loulo-Gounkoto complex has demonstrated its mettle, exceeding its 2019 guidance with production of 714,802 ounces of gold.

Barrick’s president and chief executive Mark Bristow states that the complex continued to perform consistently to plan and was still managing to replace depleted reserves through successful brownfields exploration and resource conversion.

“With the development of the complex’s third underground mine scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of this year, and an intensive exploration program in the Kenieba region, Loulo-Gounkoto has significant growth potential and is well-placed to meet all the targets of its 10-year plan,” he says.

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In line with Barrick’s clean energy strategy, Loulo-Gounkoto is pioneering the group’s first solar power project. This is being developed in four phases, with the first scheduled for commissioning at the end of the first quarter and the last in the fourth quarter of this year.

It will add 20 MW to the complex’s grid, reduce the unit cost of its power and cut carbon emissions by some 40,000 tonnes per year.

Bristow says it would serve as a model for the introduction of solar power elsewhere across Barrick, particularly at its North American operations.

Also being implemented at present is the Ramjack Newtrax project, which is setting the foundation for the automation and monitoring of the complex’s underground mines through a fiber network.

Despite the high activity level, the complex maintained its solid safety record with Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) at Loulo decreasing from four to two year-on-year, and Gounkoto recording its second successive LTI-free year

Bristow said Loulo-Gounkoto continued to invest in community health, education and economic development programs. One of these is the agricultural complex established and funded to the tune of $2.2 million.

This has produced its first crop of 48 young farmers who have been installed on 30 new farms and provided not only with the necessary technical and entrepreneurial skills, but with the credit to apply these effectively.

During 2019, Loulo-Gounkoto spent $313 million with local contractors and suppliers and continued developing local businesses by creating a $500,000 provision for an incubation project designed to incorporate local contractors into the mining industry.

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“Over the past 23 years, Barrick and its legacy company Randgold Resources have contributed $7.2 billion to the Malian economy in the form of taxes, royalties, salaries and payments to local suppliers.

“Over the same period, our mines in Mali paid $2.7 billion in dividends, taxes and royalties to the state – almost three times the $1 billion dividend received by Barrick,” Bristow said.

“It is a cardinal principle of Barrick that our host countries and communities should share equitably in the benefits created by our operations.

“Some, such as skills development and employment creation, cannot be measured, but as these figures demonstrate, the quantifiable value we deliver to Mali is very substantial,” Bristow continues.

“This is also the product of a long and constructive partnership between the government of Mali and ourselves, and in this regard it is gratifying to report that we have made significant progress towards settling the dispute between us over tax and related issues which allows us to look forward to continuing to grow our partnership with the Mali government and its people.”