Mali risks in focus

January 15, 2013

The international focus is on  gold-producing country Mali after days of French air strikes on al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel strongholds in the north of the West African country. France expects Gulf Arab states will help an African campaign against the rebels,  and a meeting of donors for the Mali operation is due at the end of the month. West African defence chiefs are meeting today to approve plans to speed up the deployment of 3,300 regional troops.

Mali isn’t normally on the radar screens of international portfolio investors, with little external debt and no developed capital markets.

But it is Africa’s third biggest gold producer, with London-listed Randgold the biggest investor and other foreign firms such as Anglogold also having investments.

Randgold said yesterday its mines were operating normally, and according to political risk consultancy Eurasia, the mining sector doesn’t appear to be at risk yet,:

With France’s robust intervention…and the forthcoming ECOWAS deployment likely to be concentrated at the de facto border areas and in the south, it is highly unlikely that the recent Islamist incursion southwards will either take the capital or threaten still-remote gold fields.

But staff security could be an issue, they add:

As militants seek reprisals on intervention supporters and Westerners more broadly, though, kidnapping and other security risks could rise for miners and other foreign-owned businesses that could make attractive targets.

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