Mali signs deal with Russia to build gold refinery

By bne IntelliNews November 23, 2023

Mali has inked a deal with Russia to construct a gold refinery, the junta in Bamako has announced.

The agreement, part of a number of bilateral accords, outlines the establishment of gold refinery in the capital city with a 200-tonne annual capacity. This would be the largest gold refinery in West Africa.

The non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Bamako and Moscow is for an unspecified four-year term, although there has yet to be a definite timeline for construction.

This was revealed by Minister of Economy and Finance, Alousseni Sanou, in an interview with national television station ORTM. According to San, Mali hopes to build the refinery so that the country can have complete control over the entirety of its gold production, while also improving oversight of regulations, taxes and duties. 

In 2022, Mali boosted its gold production to 72.2 tonnes, up 8.4% from 2021. The country mainly exports to South Africa, Switzerland and Australia.

The latest deal between Mali and Russia is another sign of the growing cooperation between the two countries, which has seen a significant boost since Mali’s coup in May 2021. In recent months, Bamako has signed deals with Russian state energy company Rosatom to produce nuclear energy, while an unnamed Russian firm has agreed to construct a solar power plant in Mali.

At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has begun openly supporting military juntas in West Africa, including in Mali, according to a recent report by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

This move follows Moscow’s decision to subsume the Russian private military company Wagner Group into the structure of the army, in response to its decision to stage a mutiny against the MoD in June 2023. Wagner is Russia’s main military force in Africa and has made significant profits working on behalf of politicians on the continent, many of them unpopular, authoritarian leaders, with payment often in the form of mining concessions.

On September 16, a Russian military delegation led by Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and GRU General Andrei Averyanov visited Bamako, Mali. They met with defence ministers from Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, along with junta leaders Assimi Goita and Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba. Notably, on that same day, these three West African countries signed a security pact to support each other in case of rebellion or external aggression.

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