* Essakane and Mana gold mines to increase output
* Government withdraws draft mining code after gold price drop
* Tamboa manganese mine on track for 2015 start
OUAGADOUGOU, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Burkina Faso plans to boost gold exports to 35 tonnes in 2014 from 32 tonnes last year on the back of plans to expand two existing sites, the mines minister said.
Gold leapfrogged cotton to become the landlocked West African country’s main export in 2009 and now accounts for roughly 20 percent of GDP.
“Revenues have increased and we expected to pass the 200 billion CFA mark in 2013. We couldn’t do it but we think that in 2014 we will surpass 35 tonnes of gold,” Salif Kabore, minister of mines, told Reuters.
He added that the extra volumes were set to follow the expansion of IAMGOLD’s Essakane mine and Semafo’s Mana mine. Total revenue from gold exports was 192 billion CFA Francs ($398.62 million)in 2013, he told Reuters on Thursday.
Like other West African gold producers, Burkina Faso has been hit by the sharp drop in gold prices since the start of 2013, causing exploration to slow.
Kabore said difficulties in the sector had prompted him to withdraw the new mining code which was being examined by the National Assembly in December.
“We withdrew the draft mining code so that we could continue discussion with our partners amid gloom in the mining sector,” he told Reuters. “It is important that, in terms of taxation, this code is not prohibitive for investors.”
Kabore said the government planned to stick to a schedule to begin production at a 100 million tonne magnesium mine at Tambao, in the country’s northeast, in 2015.
The project is a priority for the government as it seeks to diversify its economy and tax revenue away from reliance on gold and cotton.
Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast have decided to turn over operation of the Abidjan-Ouagadougou railway to mining company Pan African Minerals which will extend it to the mine, Burkina Faso’s prime minister said.
But initial shipments might have to be exported by road, Kabore said.