AngloGold Ashanti holds off on Mali mine's expansion
By Bate Felix
DAKAR Feb 13 (Reuters) - AngloGold Ashanti is to hold off on a $500 million expansion plan for its Sadiola joint venture mine in western Mali until the security situation becomes clearer, a company executive said on Wednesday.
Richard Duffy, executive vice-president of continental Africa, said the world's third-largest gold producer was simply waiting on developments in the French-led war to oust Islamist rebels from the country's northern desert.
"We are waiting for a little more certainty in terms of how the security situation in Mali pans out," Duffy told Reuters in an interview in Dakar. "We are not scaling back, we are waiting for some clarity."
Duffy said the expansion of the Sadiola mine in the Kayes region, far from the fighting in the north, was ready for the company's board approval. AngloGold operates in partnership with Canada's Iamgold and the government.
"It is more about how quickly things settle. We don't expect any immediate resolution: it is more about determining safety for our people and any possible impact in the major centres like Bamako and Kayes," Duffy said.
A four-week campaign by French and Malian forces since Jan. 11, backed by warplanes and helicopters, has driven the Islamist militants out of the main towns of northern Mali into the mountains and desert.
But the slow deployment of other African forces to help secure urban centres and surrounding areas has raised security concerns after insurgents carried out a surprise attack in the northern city of Gao last weekend.