AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick Gold to sell 'Morila the gorilla' stakes

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - AngloGold Ashanti ANGJ.J and Barrick Gold ABX.TO will sell their effective 80% stake in the Morila Gold Mine in Mali, the miners said on Monday, as political crisis grips the West African nation after soldiers seized power in a coup.

FILE PHOTO: A visitor passes a Barrick Gold mining company display during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

Australian company Mali Lithium MLL.AX will buy the firm that holds the two miners' stakes in the mine - the other 20% of which is owned by the government of Mali - for a fee estimated at between $22 million and $27 million, Barrick Gold and AngloGold Ashanti said.

Both miners said the deal would allow them to focus their capital or attention elsewhere, would extend the life of the mine and “benefit in-country stakeholders”. Neither mentioned the political situation in Mali.

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned and dissolved parliament earlier in August, hours after soldiers held him at gunpoint and seized power in a coup.

The crisis caused the closure of the country’s borders, in a nation where miners typically fly their gold out to be refined.

It also raised the risk of further political turmoil in Mali, which, in common with other countries in the region, faces a growing threat from Islamist militants.

Barrick Gold said the mine, known in its heyday as “Morila the Gorilla”, had produced 6.9 million ounces of gold, generated more than $2.5 billion for its stakeholders in taxes and dividends, and served as its legacy firm’s base for expansion elsewhere in Africa. However it was forecast to close in 2021.

Mali Lithium said it was excited and privileged to acquire one of “West Africa’s great gold mines”.

It added it wants to ramp up operations at the mine as soon as possible.

The deal remains subject to Mali Lithium finding funding and the government of Mali allowing it to go through. The parties aim to complete the transaction by October.

Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Kim Coghill, Amy Caren Daniel and Barbara Lewis