Gold Miners’ Shares Tumble Following Mali Military Coup
Reprinted from the FT – 20.08.20
Sanctions against Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer threaten to disrupt operations. Mali’s president formally resigned on Wednesday after he was seized by a group of soldiers following weeks of mass street protests.
Shares in gold miners exposed to Mali tumbled on Wednesday following a military coup in the West African country that threatens to disrupt their operations. Mali is Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer, with sites owned by some of the largest international miners.
Shares in London-listed Resolute Mining, which owns the Syama gold mine in south-eastern Mali, fell by 14 per cent on Wednesday while Canadian miner B2Gold, which runs the Fekola site, dropped 8 per cent.
Hummingbird Resources, a London-listed company whose only operational mine is in Mali, was down about 12 per cent. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s president since 2013, formally resigned on Wednesday, a day after he was seized by a group of soldiers following weeks of mass street protests.
The military said it now planned to set up a transitional government ahead of fresh elections. In response to the coup, Ecowas, a regional bloc promoting economic integration, announced measures that could prevent miners from exporting gold and importing materials to Mali.
Those sanctions included suspending trade and closing borders to the country. “The mining companies should prepare for some of their imports being slowed for a few weeks,” said Vincent Rouget, an analyst at consultancy Control Risks.
This second mutiny in less than 10 years could also do lasting damage to Mali’s image as a destination for mining investment, added Mr Rouget.
After a coup in 2012, a trade embargo by Nigeria-headquartered Ecowas lasted a week, but disruption could be three times longer this time, said Alexandre Raymakers, an analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. Mr. Raymakers noted that Ecowas had expressed support for Mr. Keita “numerous times”, so on that basis “they will be a bit more intransigent this time around when it comes to seeing a movement towards civilian rule”.
Still, Mr. Raymakers added, a new regime was unlikely to alter state policy towards mining, which represents about 7 per cent of gross domestic product and 30 per cent of the government’s revenue, according to the World Bank. “Elites from all walks of the Malian political sphere welcome foreign investment in the mining sector as a crucial part of the economy,” he said.
John Welborn, chief executive of Resolute Mining, said operations at the company’s mine, located in the south near the border with Côte d’Ivoire, were so far “continuing as normal with no impact to production or the safety and security of employees and contractors”.
B2Gold said its mining operations “have not been affected in any way and the company continues mining and milling operations as normal”.
The Fekola mine had sufficient supplies to maintain its activities through the end of the third quarter “and beyond if needed”, the company added.
Hummingbird said there had been no current impact on operations and production at the Yanfolila mine, which is 174 miles south-west of the capital, Bamako. The fall in the miners’ shares follows a 24 per cent rally in gold this year to a record high of $2,072 on August 7. Gold last traded at $1,986 a troy ounce.