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AGBAOU, Ivory Coast, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Endeavour Mining plans to produce at least three tonnes of gold annually from Agbaou in Ivory Coast and will start marketing bars from the mine by the end of the first quarter, officials said.
Canadian miner Endeavour, which owns 85 percent of the mine, on Monday officially launched production at the plant about 200 km northwest of the capital Abidjan.
Neil Woodyer, Endeavour Mining's chief executive officer, said the company invested $160 million to build the mine which has a lifespan of about eight years. Woodyer said the firm was looking to extend it beyond that.
"This mine, the fourth in our group, will allow us to produce about 400,000 ounces per year in total," he said at the launch ceremony. The company has other mines in Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso which currently produce around 300,000 ounces in total.
Mines and industry minister Jean-Claude Brou said production from Agbaou will boost Ivory Coast's output by about 20 percent.
The Ivorian state holds a 10 percent stake in the mine, while its mining development company Sodemi owns 5 percent.
"With the start of production at Agbaou, three tonnes of gold will be added annually to the country's production," Brou said.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, aims to increase gold output to diversify its sources of income and boost the economy.
Randgold's Tongon mine, Newcrest's Bonikro and La Mancha's Ity are the other gold mines operating the country.
Ivory Coast's total gold production stood at around 12 tonnes last year and the government has forecast annual output will reach around 25 tonnes by 2015 as new mines come on stream.