Canadian miner Iamgold has opened its Essakane gold mine in Burkina Faso, West Africa, six weeks ahead of its production schedule and six months ahead of the original target of year-end 2010.

Essakane, Iamgold’s first greenfield project in Africa, is expected to produce more than 500,000oz of gold from start-up until the end of 2011.

The company said commercial production will be achieved on the first of 30 consecutive days on which total ore processed exceeds 445,000t, equivalent to 60% of design throughput capacity.

Essakane is 90% held by Iamgold, while the rest is owned by The Government of Burkina Faso.