April 8, 2015 / 3:43 PM / in 3 years

Mali's gold exports down 21 pct in 2014 on drop in artisanal mining

BAMAKO, April 8 (Reuters) - Gold exports from Mali, Africa’s third largest producer, fell by 21 percent last year to 53.2 tonnes, down from 67.4 tonnes in 2013 due mainly to a sharp drop in artisanal mining, according to government statistics.

Industrial mining exports slipped only slightly to 45.8 tonnes from 47 tonnes in 2013, the figures from Mali’s National Statistics Institute showed.

However, artisanal exports dropped nearly 64 percent to 7.4 tonnes from 20.4 tonnes in 2013.

The government last year enforced a ban on artisanal gold mining during the May/June to September/October rainy season to cut down on accidents linked to cave-ins and to divert manpower back to agriculture.

A crackdown on illegal mining also played a role, said Abdoulaye Pona, president of Mali’s Chamber of Mines.

“There were measures dismantling several large artisanal sites that were located inside permits held by large mining companies,” he said.

Companies producing gold in Mali include Randgold Resources , AngloGold Ashanti, IAMGOLD Corporation and Resolute Mining.

Pona said that 2013’s spike in artisanal production had been due in part to a crisis the previous year, including a Tuareg rebellion, an army coup that led to economic sanctions, and the seizure of the north by al Qaeda-linked groups.

A French-led military intervention in January 2013 pushed back the Islamist fighters and, following a transition period, elections were held later that year.

The normalisation of Mali’s political and economic situation had allowed workers to leave artisanal mining and return to other sectors of the economy, Pona said.

Mali has trimmed its forecast for industrial gold production this year to 44.9 tonnes from 45.8 tonnes last year as output from some mature mines dwindles, the mines ministry said last month. (Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Greg Mahlich)

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