Sheltered from the tropical sun, laid out metre by metre in metal racks, the rock samples from Amara Mining’s gold project testify to a busy year of drilling.
Analysis of these drill cores will form the basis for investor interest in the UK group and its project at Yaoure, less than an hour’s drive from Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast’s official capital.
Amara wants to join the ranks of the country’s gold producers, which include two of the largest companies in gold mining, Australia’s Newcrest Mining and Randgold Resources, listed in the UK and the US.
Endeavour Mining, a midsized Canada-listed producer with four west African mines, opened its Agbaou mine in the country last year. Endeavour has a partnership with the privately owned La Mancha group to acquire the Ity mine. A minority shareholding in Ity is held by a high-profile investor, Didier Drogba, perhaps the nation’s best-known footballer.
Notwithstanding these projects, gold mining is uncommon by the standards of the region, where Ghana and Mali have long been established producers. “This is a young sector compared with those in other countries in Africa,” says Jean-Claude Brou, the mining minister.
The roots of Ivory Coast’s relative neglect of the sector lie in its preference for agriculture-led development. Mining contributes only about 2 per cent of GDP and, according to Mr Brou, employs about 6,500 people directly.
One local person connected with the sector says mining is fairly low “down the food chain” in the country, with relatively little understanding of the industry. “People do not get out of bed for it.”
However, Neil Woodyer, Endeavour’s chief executive, says Ivory Coast contains more than a third of a regional belt of gold-bearing rock known as the Birimian Greenstone, but produces only about 10 per cent of the belt’s output. This suggests there is more to be found.
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