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Gold miners hold their nerve as coup in Mali unsettles markets

Mali is Africa's fourth largest producer of gold, according to data from 2019

B2Gold Corp. -

So far it’s business as usual in the gold mining sector in Mali, after a military coup ousted the President on Tuesday.

Mali is a significant producer of gold, nestling as it does on the northern end of a group of prolific gold producing countries that include Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

In recent decades gold miners have expanded into Mali in significant numbers, working north along the same geological structures that endowed Ghana so richly that for centuries it was known as the Gold Coast.

But Mali has also been plagued by instability. Most explorers are at pains to point out they operate in the south of the country, a long way from where an ongoing insurgency from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb continues to disrupt life in the north.

In recent years, both French and American troops have deployed to Mali to help the incumbent secular government combat the issue of Islamic terrorism.

The latest difficulty though is of a more prosaic nature, and relates to allegations of corruption around the outgoing President and his regime, as well as issues of pay and conditions amongst the soldiers who have seized power.

As such, alarm amongst the mining companies inside Mali has been relatively muted.

B2Gold (TSE:BTO) was typical in the type of announcement it put out in response to the news.

“B2Gold's mining operations at its Fekola Mine have not been affected in any way and the company continues mining and milling operations as normal,” it said in a statement released to the market on the morning of 19 August.

“The Fekola mine has sufficient supplies on hand to maintain its budgeted activities through the end of the third quarter and beyond if needed. The Fekola mill expansion remains on schedule. No operational days have been lost due to the political situation in the country and all of B2Gold's mine personnel are safe.”

Hummingbird Resources (LON:HUM), which started production in Mali in 2017 was similarly sanguine.

“There has been no current impact on Hummingbird's operations and production at the Yanfolila mine, which is located some 280 kilometres south west of the capital, Bamako,” said an official market release.

“The company's security team is in regular contact with the operational and management team regarding the ongoing safety of Hummingbird's staff, operations and assets.”

Nevertheless, shares all the companies with exposure to Mali were weaker on the news, with Hummingbird down by nearly 10%, and Resolute Mining (ASX:RSG)(LON:RSG), which has a long-standing operation at Syama, down by around 15%.

But it may be that with the gold price strong, traders will regard any dips in the Mali miners as buying opportunities. After all, along with B2Gold there are other bluechip names amongst them, like AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AU), and Iamgold (TSE:IMG).

Investors with longer memories will also recall that many miners continued to operate during a 2012 coup.

The mining sector which accounted for 9.7% of Mali’s GDP in 2019. Gold output stood at 71.1 tonnes in 2019, according to government figures, and earned the state over US$700mln.

The country is the fourth largest producer of gold in Africa.

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Price: 8.61 CAD

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