Randgold Resources has announced plans to develop a third underground mine at its Loulo-Gounkoto gold mining complex in Mali.

The company is also considering the simultaneous expansion of its footprint elsewhere in the region.

Randgold Resources CEO Mark Bristow said that the company has completed a feasibility study on an underground mine at Gounkoto.

This year, the complex intends to increase gold production at its existing Yalea and Gara underground mines and the Gounkoto open pit mine.

The underground operations are expected to provide 60% of the ore feed to its mills.

"We believe the Senegal-Mali shear zone, which hosts Loulo-Gounkoto, is one of the most prolific gold regions in Africa, with the capacity to rival Ghana’s Obuasi."

Bristow said: "Regardless of the potential Gounkoto underground mine, subject to the gold price remaining at current levels, the complex is forecast to up its profitability from its existing mining activities through increased production and reduced unit costs on the back of higher grades, improved recoveries and the benefits of its ongoing capital projects.

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By GlobalData

"We believe the Senegal-Mali shear zone, which hosts Loulo-Gounkoto, is one of the most prolific gold regions in Africa, with the capacity to rival Ghana’s Obuasi, and we are continuing our hunt for more multi-million ounce gold deposits there."

According to Bristow, Loulo-Gounkoto has reserves of more than eight million ounces of gold, bringing the complex’s mine life estimation up to 2027.

In 2014, the crusher circuit was upgraded and two additional medium-speed generators were commissioned, providing Loulo-Gounkoto with around 50MW of installed capacity.

An underground backfill system was also commissioned and ramped-up. Finalisation of the refrigeration and next phase of ventilation plans are planned projects for this year, as well as upgrading and optimising the power distribution system and the elution and regeneration plants.