UPDATE 1-Mali gold output surges in 2012 despite turmoil
BAMAKO Feb 28 (Reuters) - Gold ore production in Mali jumped 15 percent in 2012 to 50.272 tonnes, from 43.5 in 2011, as miners followed through with expansion plans despite a political crisis and a war, the government said on Thursday.
Output from Mali's southern gold mines is expected to expand further to 57 tonnes this year, said Djibouroula Togola, the technical advisor in charge of production at the West African nation's Mines Ministry.
"Despite the crisis, we exceeded our forecasts in 2012. The industrial mines produced 46.272 tonnes and the artisanal miners produced four tonnes, bringing total output to 50.272 tonnes," he told Reuters.
"In 2013, we expect industrial production of 53 tonnes and artisanal production of four tonnes. So the forecast for 2013 is around 57 tonnes," he said.
The increase comes despite turmoil in the country - Africa's No. 3 gold producer behind South Africa and Ghana - which suffered a coup in March and where French and regional troops are helping the army combat Islamist rebels in the north.
All of the country's gold production is in the south.
Gold companies with mines in Mali - including Randgold Resources, AngloGold Ashanti and Avion Gold - have been publicly playing down the risks of the crisis to production and shipping.
Togola said the construction of a new mine by Canadian miner Robex Resources, expected to produce two tonnes per year over 10 years, had further brightened the outlook.
Malian officials have said the chaos has also left its second economic pillar, cotton, largely untouched.