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Barrick Gold Corporation – The Loulo-Gounkoto Complex: Setting the Gold Standard

Globally Barrick Gold Corporation spans 13 countries, with 16 sites of operation producing gold and copper. Consequently, its portfolio extends across the globe and is focused on attaining the most prolific gold and copper districts, which are high-margin and long-life assets. With the goal of being one of the world’s most valued gold and copper companies with the best returns and benefits for its stakeholders, Barrick continues to invest in the industry, whilst building its operations towards more sustainable growth. Therefore, its development across its Loulo-Gounkoto Mine Complex is a key milestone for the company positioning itself as a leading global gold supplier.  

As one of the largest gold-producing companies in the world, Barrick, which is headquartered in North America, produced 547,00 ounces of gold in 2022 from The Loulo-Gounkoto Project in Mali. This key mine complex is crucial to the company’s gold production and comprises two distinct mining permits: Loulo and Gounkoto. Situated in the west of Mali, bordering Senegal and adjacent to the Falémé River, Barrick has 80% ownership over the two mines, with the State of Mali holding 20% ownership. Production at the Loulo mine site began in 2005 and comprises of an open-pit operation and the development of two underground mines.   

Meanwhile, Barrick’s Gounkoto mine is an open-pit operation as well as a number of satellite deposits. Gounkoto poured its first gold in 2011 and began developments in 2020 on a new underground mine which delivered its first ore in 2021. The combined sites make up The Loulo-Gounkoto Complex which as of 2022 had 6.7 million ounces of proven probable gold reserves and combined positions Barrick Gold as one of the top 10 gold producers in the world and the biggest in terms of enterprise value in the whole of Africa. Therefore, when combined with the production at another of Barrick’s gold operations in Mali, the Morila Mine, the two projects collectively contributed $9.3 billion to the Malian economy and accounted for 5-10% of the country’s GDP over the past 10 years, which highlights the significant economic impact of Barrick’s operations across the region.  

Barrick announced in January that over 2022 its Loulo-Gounkoto mining complex maintained its historically consistent performance by meeting its production guidance and solidifying its long-term outlook. The complex is predicting 510,000-560,000 ounces of gold in 2023 and has been developing a third underground mine at Gunkoto which is on track to start ore production shortly. Consequently, the mine complex is set to maintain and continue to expand its output, to continue to establish the overarching company as a leader in the mining industry that has positioned its operation towards a future of sustainable growth.  

However, a crucial element of Barrick’s operations in Mali is its commitment to partnering with the local community to transform the natural resources of the land into tangible benefits and mutual prosperity. One way that Barrick is doing this is through employment, which sees the complex hire almost its entire workforce from local communities. By employing roughly 700 locals across the company, Barrick is ensuring that its operations are having a positive effect on the communities through employment which encourages the financial development of the region for a more economically diverse future. Additionally, over the entire life of the Loulo-Gounkoto Complex, the state has received more than 70% of the economic benefits that the mining venture has created.  

President and Chief Executive of Barrick Gold, Mark Bristow, has announced in a recent press release that “Host community investment is making a significant difference in the surrounding areas through the ongoing development of infrastructure, agriculture, education, and healthcare. Malian nationals account for 100% of the complex’s management team and 96% of its workforce”. He also outlines that the company’s “strong partnership network has been a significant factor in enabling Loulo-Gounkoto to maintain an exemplary performance in the face of the many challenges recently experienced by Mali”. Bristow’s comments highlight how their work to employ people from the local community and work with local stakeholders is a key factor in the success of Barrick’s operations. By working alongside people and businesses from the region, Barrick benefits from both the country’s economy and the global notoriety of Malian gold.   

Furthermore, Barrick is equally concerned with the movement towards a more sustainable future. Barrick has implemented a global green energy strategy across its operations, which has seen The Loulo-Gounkoto complex implement a solar power plant. The company announced in January that since the plant was commissioned in August 2020 it has cut its emissions by 57 kilotons (kt). Then in June, Barrick announced that it was further extending the complex’ solar power installation and battery storage system by 40 megawatts (MW). The project was previously feeding 10MW into the mine’s micro-grid and it is expected that its second phase will be commissioned ahead of its planned 2024 timelines.  

Overall, Barrick Gold Corporation has established itself as a key player in the global gold and copper fields. Specifically with its sites of operation in Mali, Barrick is leading the way as a gold producer across Africa which is developing the industry towards localised and global economic benefits. However, the company is equally concerned with ensuring that while it is mining finite resources, it is implementing measures to reduce the company’s carbon emissions significantly. Therefore, through Barrick’s partnership with the State of Mali, it has established itself as yet again a sector-leading gold producer, which has a diverse portfolio of high-margin, long-life assets.