Bamako, Mali, 17 October 2006 (LSE:RRS)(Nasdaq:GOLD) - The development of Randgold Resources' new Yalea underground mine at its Loulo project in Mali was officially launched today with the turning of the first sod by the Minister of Mines, Energy and Water, Hamed D Semega.
The two open-cast mines at Loulo went into production late last year and to June 2006 had already poured 184 000 ounces of gold. The Yalea development will raise the project's production from 250 000 ounces per year to in excess of 400 000 ounces per year and reduce its cost profile over the next five years. It is expected to remain in production beyond 2020. The boxcut and portal construction at Yalea is now well advanced and excavation of the declines is scheduled to begin before the end of the year. Randgold Resources expects to access the first development ore in late 2007.
A second underground mine - Loulo 0 - is currently at the final planning stage. To distinguish it clearly from the overall project, Loulo 0 is being renamed Gara after a nearby stream.
Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony, Randgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow said Loulo's systematic transformation into a four-mine complex underlined the project's enormous brownfields potential.
"Randgold Resources is known for its commitment to organic growth driven by exploration and it was our discovery of the Yalea deposit that made Loulo a viable project in the first place. Further exploration showed that underground mines could be developed to complement the open-cast operations on which the project was initially based. These will significantly extend the life and enhance the value of the project and have elevated it to true world-class status," he said