Situated in southern Mali, Resolute Mining’s Syama mine has since its discovery and construction in the late 1980s successfully delivered millions of gold ounces for BHP Billiton and subsequent owner Randgold Resources (now Barrick Gold Corporation).
Despite its metallurgically-challenging double refractory ore body, Resolute Mining was eager to return the mine to production and took ownership of the asset in 2004, recommissioned it in 2009 and continued mining the Syama open pit until 2015.
This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2020
When CEO John Welborn joined the company four years ago, he immediately recognised the operation’s potential not only to transition below surface but to do so incorporating a suite of technologies that would ensure a high production, low cost operation that could be run using an upskilled Malian team, supported by a cleaner energy, solar-hybrid electricity source.
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Underground development commenced in late 2016, leading to the commencement of sublevel caving in December 2018 and a quick ramp up thereafter to reaching in excess of 80% of its design capacity in July 2019 – an impressive timeframe considering this is the first time a company has delivered a fully automated mine in Africa. Full production capacity and full automation was scheduled by the end of 2019.
At full capacity the Syama underground mine will produce approximately 46 000 t of ore per week, or 2.4 Mtpa, using a fully integrated automated mine fleet.
Operators in the newly completed surface control room are able to control underground production units over shift-change, blasting and re-entry period.
This represents the initial delivery of one of the main benefits of automation, the ability to maintain production over periods when operations would normally cease in a typical manual mine.
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Taking the automation route has seen Resolute Mining bring its all-in-sustaining costs (AISC) down by more than US$100/oz to just below $750/oz – which it should comfortably maintain over its minimum 14-year lifespan.
Comment from the judges
“Syama is expected to be the world’s first purpose-built fully automated UG gold mine (will be the most sophisticated/advanced gold mine in Africa. This is a major opportunity for technology training and upskilling Malians and they will be exposed to the leading edge of mining modernisation in Africa. Innovation includes a 50 MW hybrid solar-battery-HFO power plant. A close runner-up for me,” Ian Haddon