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Gold production decline; Sierra Leone tackles smuggling

Updates from the 2020 Mining Indaba.
Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani (pictured) tells indaba he is optimistic about the appointment of Andre de Ruyter as Eskom CEO. Image: Jason Alden, Bloomberg

Global gold production is likely to keep falling, said Barrick Gold Corp. Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow. Mine output slipped by about 1% last year, the first annual contraction since 2008, according to the World Gold Council.

Bristow was speaking at the African Mining Indaba, the continent’s biggest gathering of one of its most vital industries.

Here’s more from the conference 

Sierra Leone tackles smuggling (2:30 pm)

Sierra Leone’s government has deployed mine monitors and is considering using drones to try and stop the smuggling of diamonds and gold across its borders into neighbouring Liberia and Guinea.

“We are taking very stringent measures,”said Julius Mattai, director general of the National Minerals Agency. “There has been a massive reduction” in smuggling, he said. An estimated 300 000 to 500 000 people work as artisanal miners in the West African nation.

Angola diamonds (11:30 am)

Angola plans to increase annual diamond production to 14 million carats in 2022, from 9 million carats last year, said Mineral Resources Minister Diamantino Azevedo.

The country is also seeking to diversify its economy away from oil and diamonds and is targeting production of minerals including gold, silver, iron ore and manganese.

Shrinking capital (10:30 am)

The investment capital available to mining companies is shrinking as the economic boom in China slows and investors see the industry as increasingly risky, said Rio Tinto Group Energy and Minerals CEO Bold Baatar.

“It’s becoming more difficult to invest in mining — our shareholders are rotating largely out of mining for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Money moves around the world where it is less risky.”

Mining companies need to look for new ways of structuring projects, such as teaming up with juniors, he said.

Anglo on Eskom boss

The new chief executive officer of struggling South African power utility Eskom has at least one fan in the mining industry: Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani.

Andre de Ruyter’s admission that the country would have to bear with load shedding for at least 18 months is exactly what South African businesses need, Cutifani said.

“I am far more optimistic today than I was 12 months ago even though the situation might be worse,” he said. “We still have risks, issues that we are going to deal with, but the fact that we have got some brutally honest conversations, now that’s good.”

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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