"I believe the country will continue to attract more capital and consequently more discoveries, especially as support from both African and Western countries have protected the South-West of the country from any jihadist incident."
Could you start with a brief update of the main milestones from Kandiolé Mine in South West Mali?
Kandiolé is located in a prime exploration district, the heart of many prolific discoveries, and what I estimate to be the home to another 15 million oz of gold residing in this area. Within an 80 km radius, there are seven operating mines. The founder of Roscan, Greg Isenor, who sold Merrex Gold to IAMGOLD in 2017, is known to have a good nose for “sniffing” the good spots in West Africa, and most of the ground he identified is being targeted by some of our neighbors. Preliminary work on Kandiolé has already pointed us towards anomalies and the discovery at Southern Mankouke, where we continue to drill across a strike-land of about 600 m. I am confident we will be able to pick up other pockets of mineralization in the structure that extends for 7 km to the north at Mankouke. Roscan also has other high priority targets scattered in the property tenements that spans about 300 km2.
Mali’s security concerns and the ratification of VAT exemptions in the new mining code approved earlier this year are deterring factors for investors and prospectors. What do you think about the political and policy context Mali offers?
In terms of the policy, the context is not different from what we see in many West African mining states, which have been moving in the same direction of cancelling their tax holidays. What has been a point of anxiety is the political stalemate introduced by the opposition wanting out the incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK). Without a substantive ministry to implement the new code, some permits may be left in doldrums, but I do not believe this stalemate will continue for long, because ECOWAS countries have made efforts to put a transitional government in place. The main drivers of the political unrest has been the slowdown in the socio-economic development, which is now being addressed through this transition. Mining operations have not been impacted during this period. No matter who ends up running the country, mining will undoubtedly continue to represent one of the major foreign exchange owners, so I do not see any drastic changes hindering the sector.
Is the occurrence of artisanal mining directly affecting Roscan, and what do you believe to be the best way to tackle this issue?
We have had some artisanal activity on our site, but we have a task force acting as a watchdog for these groupings and advising the community leader on these issues. However, artisanal mining has evolved with time, as local illicit miners used to be chased to take mining companies to where the gold was found, but today illegal miners have become sophisticated, they read press releases and pursue gold discoveries made by the companies in the region. The best way to deal with artisanal miners is for governments to recognize the nature of this issue as being a socio-economic one: poverty, unemployment and lack of food drive these people into selling minerals to support their livelihoods. Artisanal miners should be organized in cooperatives, be advised on best mining practices, and taxed accordingly. If organized properly artisanal miners will not encroach on mining companies and will not hinder the development of the country.
How do you see the future of Mali as a gold mining jurisdiction?
Mali’s dominance in the gold mining sector dates back decades, if not centuries. I believe the country will continue to attract more capital and consequently more discoveries, especially as support from both African and Western countries have protected the South-West of the country from any jihadist incident. The Senegal-Mali-Shear-Zone has seen a concentration of exploration dollars but the Sub-parallel corridors has not seen a lot of exploration-dollars, and once more exploration dollars are spent on these corridors more sizeable discoveries are likely to be found.
What are Roscan’s future priorities?
We have been very humbled by the support from the investment community who have recognized the potential in the district. The capital raised so far has helped us unlock that potential and we are just at the beginning of the story, already having succeeded with our primary discovery. The market, however, has yet to understand what else we have in the broader corridor, and I believe they should stay tuned in for surprises. We are deep into our discovery phase, and, with the gold prices behind us and an aggressive drilling campaign underway, we will have other discoveries to talk about besides Mankouke very soon.