MALI : Economy
The mining sector
The country is brimming over with great mineral wealth. With the exception of gold, this has been little or poorly exploited as yet due to the remoteness and isolation of the regions concerned. Gold is the country’s top currency-earner, posting an official figure of 60 tonnes per year. The state relies on it as a "safe asset", as international market prices for it are constantly rising. Australia, South Africa and Canada are Mali’s top partners. In the course of 10 years or so, the country had thus risen to third place for gold production on the African Continent (and ninth place in the world) after South Africa and Ghana, before the conflict in 2012 dramatically slowed it down.
Industrial scale production is limited to the Sadiola, Morila and Yatél sites – operated by the South African giant, Anglogold, since they were opened in the early 1990s – but today they are close to being exhausted. Only the site at Loulou, opened in 2005, still remains a highly profitable industrial operation. The focus of exploration is now turning to the regions of Kayes and Sikasso.
The artisanal exploitation of gold is widespread among people – particularly youth – who come, looking not for Eldorado, but an additional source of income for their families. This small-scale gold mining, which amounts to a few flakes of gold extracted from tunnels that can be as much as 40 metres deep, dug by hand, is put at 16 tonnes per year.
Mali has other mineral resources, such as phosphate, bauxite, iron, uranium, manganese, gypsum, marble and diamonds, which also attract foreign investors. However, these deposits are barely exploited. Recently, oil companies showed an interest in exploration in Mali. Baraka Limited and Mali Oil reported promising results, but have made any commitments.