West Africa, one of the world’s largest gold producing regions, is getting bigger, growing beyond the Ghana-Mali-Burkina Faso geographies, but also beyond gold, with more minerals gathering attention.
Gold mining in Africa has seen a paradigm shift from South Africa’s dominance to the rising importance of the West African region in the last decade in terms of production. Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali, the top three gold-producing countries in West Africa, together accounts for 33% of Africa’s total gold production.
While COVID-19 has impacted production, with the collective output of these three countries falling by 4.7% in 2020, the region is recovering rapidly, with gold volumes looking good for 2021 and production growing at 2.7% for the region, according to Global Data.
By 2024, total output by the region’s top-producing trio – Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali – is expected to increase from 8M ounces in 2021 to 8.4M ounces for 2022, with both old and new mines supporting this upward projection. For example, Mali’s industrial gold mines are expected to produce 64.1 tonnes of gold in 2022, compared with 63.4 tonnes in 2021, according to the country’s mines ministry.
The easy access to gold resources from the surface (open pits) is one of the attractions of West Africa and this, along with the region’s natural riches, is attracting miners and investment from around the globe.
Some of the exciting younger players making big statements in West Africa include:
ASX Listed Firefinch Ltd (ASX: FFX) is a proven West African gold miner which also has a significant lithium interest in the region. The company recently published its Mineral Resource and Ore Reserve statement for the Morila Gold Project (aka “Morila The Gorilla”) for the year ending 31 December 2021. It is now estimated that the Morila Gold Project has total Mineral Resources of 2.5M ounces of contained gold made up of:
- Indicated 27.4M tonnes at 1.49g/t gold for 1.3M ounces
- Inferred 23.2M tonnes at 1.56g/t gold for 1.2M ounces
The project’s Total Ore Reserves are estimated at 1.1M ounces of contained gold, with Probable Ore Reserves of 23.8M tonnes at 1.40g/t. The company has carried out an extensive drilling campaign at the Morila Deposit, where no mining was carried out during 2021, with stripping of waste commencing in January 2022, and the Mineral Resource remains current.
On the lithium front, Firefinch recently welcomed the release of funds totalling US$130M from Goulamina Lithium Project Joint Venture Company (JV company) and its partner, China’s Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd. Firefinch and Ganfeng each hold a 50% interest in the JV company. The trigger for funding followed the transfer of the Exploitation Licence for the Goulamina Lithium Project to Lithium du Mali SA (LMSA), a wholly owned subsidiary of the JV company.
The satisfaction of a conditions precedent triggered US$130M of equity funding to be provided to the JV company by Ganfeng, with US$39M to be released from escrow and received by the JV company and a further US$91M to be transferred to the JV company by Ganfeng. Ganfeng is further obliged to provide either US$40M of Ganfeng direct debt or source US$64M of third-party debt. Taken together, Ganfeng’s debt and equity funding package of at least US$170M is expected to substantially fund the project through the development phase.
The procurement and tendering of long lead items for the project is already underway to accelerate the commencement of construction, this includes tenders for the ball mill and crushing equipment. Ganfeng is assisting with tenders to be sent to its supplier network in China.
Australian junior miner Mako Gold Limited (ASX: MKG) recently received promising assay results from 39 reverse circulation (RC) holes from an ongoing drill programme at the Gogbala Prospect, within the company’s flagship Napié Project in Côte d’Ivoire. Gogbala is located on a +23km soil anomaly and coincident 30km-long Napié Fault.
Significant wide and high-grade mineralization was intersected in 35 of the 39 holes drilled at Gogbala, including 17m at 4.13g/t Au in NARC660, which includes 5m at 12.02g/t Au. The new holes were drilled in the 2km-long high-priority area which is the focus of extensional drilling for the upcoming maiden MRE scheduled for Q2-CY22.
Managing Director Peter Ledwidge said the company is highly encouraged by results from drill holes in an emerging zone, located approximately 2km north-east of the MRE priority area, which includes 1.0m at 30.89g/t Au in NARC616 as this demonstrates the potential for Gogbala to grow. Follow-up drilling on these zones is planned with the aim to include these areas in the MRE.
Newcore Gold Ltd. (TSXV: NCAU | OTCQX: NCAUF) recently unveiled two gold discoveries in a 90,000m drill programme underway at the company’s 100% owned Enchi Gold Project in Ghana. First pass RC drilling on two grassroots targets, Tokosea and Sewum South, intersected shallow oxide gold mineralization demonstrating the strong potential to delineate additional resource areas across the 216km2 property.
Drilling at Tokosea (located on the central portion of Enchi) intersected shallow high-grade oxide gold mineralization grading 3.52g/t Au over 9.0m from 74m, including 7.36 g/t Au over 4.0m from 77m.
Drilling at Sewum South (located at the southern end of Enchi, one of the largest previously undrilled targets identified on the project) intersected 0.95 g/t Au over 15.0m from 25m, including 2.31 g/t Au over 5.0m from 25m.
Both Tokosea and Sewum South are previously undrilled gold targets with very large anomalous areas identified.
Elsewhere, Roscan Gold Corporation (TSXV: ROS) continues to expand the gold mineralization at the Kabaya Project in Mali. The company has received positive RC drilling results at Kabaya from an additional 53 holes totalling 5,969m.
In order to both discover new gold zones outside its existing resource area and to expand the potential gold resources in its existing resource at Kabaya, Roscan designed an aggressive RC drilling programme. This drilling comprised 60% step-out holes to test for new gold zones along the North South strike from KB1 to cover the underexplored zone between KB1 and KB3. The remaining 40% of the RC drill holes were focused on an infill drilling programme in KB1 and KB2.
An earlier, excellent gold recovery of 95.65% in saprolite from the metallurgical test work with near-surface mineralization points to the economic potential of these targets.
The current drilling results at KB3 has outlined an estimated strike length of 200m, a width of 80m and a 100m vertical depth. This zone is open at depth and laterally. There is an 850m gap between KB3 and KB1-2, the main gold mineralization that is yet to be fully tested.
“Drilling at Kabaya continues to expand the footprint of the gold mineralization which bodes well for the pending maiden resource in Q2,” president and CEO, Nana Sangmuah, said. Roscan is also well placed financially to continue to grow the project after it raised C$5M in March 2022 through a non-brokered private placement.