Mali agrees Russia deal to build Africa’s largest gold refinery

MALI signed an agreement with Russia to build a gold refinery in Bamako in a development Reuters described as further evidence western influence in the West African gold producer was diminishing.

A non-binding memorandum of understanding between Mali and Russia involves building a 200 tons a year refinery, said Reuters citing Alousséni Sanou, a minister in Mali’s military government. “This will allow us not only to control all gold production but also to be able to correctly apply all taxes and duties,” Sanou said.

The memorandum is valid for four years, he said, without giving a timeline for construction. If built, it would be the West African country’s largest gold refinery, said Reuters.

Russia’s state nuclear energy company Rosatom signed an deal with Mali in October to explore for minerals and produce nuclear energy. Sanou said he had also signed a deal with a Russian firm to build a 200- to 300 megawatt solar power plant by mid-2025.

Mali’s military, which took power in a 2021 coup, last year kicked out troops from former colonial power France, who were fighting Islamist militants, and teamed up with the Russian military contractor Wagner Group, which has operations across Africa, including lucrative mining deals, said Reuters.

Wagner has been accused of human rights abuses in Mali’s fight against Islamists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Industrial gold production in Mali totalled 66.2 tons last year, mostly from mines owned by Barrick Gold, B2Gold, Resolute Mining, Allied Gold and Endeavour Mining.


The deal is the latest sign of Russia’s deepening interests in Mali, one of Africa’s largest gold producers, just as Western influence there wanes, the newswire said.

According to a report by Agence France-Presse, the United Nations’ peace keeping mission said on November 18 it had left a ninth of its 12 bases in Mali as part of its forced withdrawal from the country which is battling separatist and jihadi rebellions.

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said withdrawing from Mali is a mistake for the West. “The western world has a habit of when something doesn’t work you want to leave,” he said. “This is a time in history when the West has to show commitment to support the process of finding the right civilian government.”

He is hoping to negotiate recent changes to Mali’s mining code. “It takes time for people to really comprehend that [demerits of new mining code] because these are not economists or miners, but military people. They are all colonels. You have to take time to understand the model,” he said.

On August 29, Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita signed into law a new mining code which will enable the state and local investors to take stakes in mining projects as high as 35% compared with 20% previously. This would more than double the sector’s contribution to Mali’s gross domestic product to around 20% and allow Mali to address a shortfall in production revenues, the government has said.

“My view is that we have got time to talk and to find a solution while at same time [appreciating that] Mali is constantly on the look out for support and better tax revenue,” said Bristow.