Tietto Minerals is the newest gold producer in West Africa, marked by its first successful gold pour this year. We speak to Managing Director Caigen Wang about the company’s Abujar Gold Project and its exciting potential moving forward.
THE NEW FACE OF GOLD
Africa is a continent of precious gems and metals.
In the west, Ivory Coast is home to a diverse range of mineral commodities and hosts a mining sector set to attract foreign investment from all over the world. The national government has helped in this regard, establishing measures to simplify the process surrounding obtaining mining permits, as well as providing tax incentives to those companies and bodies seeking to invest in sector operations. On top of this, there exists a national agency for the promotion of investments, established by the government to help develop investor projects in the field.
Backed by this government assistance, it is no surprise that Ivory Coast is rapidly growing in recognition as a country with substantial mining potential.
“Ivory Coast is one of the best locations for gold mining investment in the world. When it comes to jurisdiction, it is certainly the best in Africa. The government is very transparent, and the mining industry operates under the New Mining Code, working with safety at the fore,” introduces Caigen Wang, Managing Director of Tietto Minerals (Tietto).
Tietto is West Africa’s newest gold producer, achieving its first gold with the Abujar Gold Project (Abujar) in Ivory Coast in January of this year. With an estimated life of mine (LOM) revenue of USD$2.87 billion at a USD$1,700/oz gold price, Abujar can deliver a pre-tax cashflow of USD$1.28 billion and achieve payback within a year of first production post-ramp-up. On top of this, Abujar gold production is unhedged and free of debt.
Abujar exemplifies the rich potential of mining in Ivory Coast. According to Wang, the country has a lot to offer in terms of resources in the mining sector and is currently one with less focus continentally, leading to a lot of untapped opportunities across the nation.
“Importantly, Ivory Coast is under-explored resource-wise compared to neighbouring countries,” Wang explains. “Ivory Coast also has fantastic infrastructure and when it comes to transport, power and supply, these are all available. Power is very cheap for the mining industry nationally, and on top of all this, the government is very ambitious to escalate the mining sector’s contribution to overall GDP.
“The government is aiming to increase this from two to five percent of the country’s GDP, and the economic and supplier support proves this.”
THE ABUJAR GOLD PROJECT
For such a new and established company, Tietto has a bright future ahead of it. Tietto’s 2021 definitive feasibility study (DFS) for Abujar demonstrated the project can produce 260,000 ounces (oz) of gold in its first year of production post-ramp-up at an all-in-sustaining-cost (AISC) of USD$651/oz and produce 1.2 million ounces of gold over the first six years of operation, averaging 200,000 ounces per year at an AISC of USD$804/oz.
“Tietto started in 2010 with a focus on gold exploration in West Africa,” Wang tells us. “The company originated in Liberia, and two years later we expanded into Ivory Coast. This expansion gave rise to the Abujar project, located in the central west of the country.”
Tietto is positioned to continue building its resource inventory at Abujar while ramping up gold production in the first half of 2023. Abujar itself is comprised of three contiguous tenements: Abujar South, Abujar Middle, and Abujar North, totalling over 1,114 kilometre-squared (km2) and features a 70-kilometre-long gold corridor. Less than 10 percent of the project area has been explored, providing plenty of exploration upside for Tietto to further grow its resource inventory.
“Starting from scratch, we began exploring Abujar in 2014. We explored the potential of the project extensively, gaining a mining licence in 2020, and started building the mine at the beginning of 2022, completing in December of last year,” Wang says.
“Since then, Abujar has operated full steam ahead, leading to its successful first gold pour at the beginning of this year, a significant and celebratory milestone for Abujar and all of us at Tietto.”
Abujar is strategic in its location, being 30 kilometres from the major regional city of Daloa and close to excellent regional and local infrastructure including grid electricity to make the most of Ivory Coast’s cheap power costs.
Abujar has a current LOM of 11 years with scope for Tietto to extend this with further near-mine and regional exploration success. With this in mind, Tietto is investigating the viability of a second site, the Abujar-Pischon-Golikro (APG) gold deposit, seven kilometres from its Abujar CIL operations.
Tietto’s investigation into the viability of a second gold mine at the APG deposit has led to a promising find; the scoping study has identified potential for a heap leach operation that could deliver an additional 850,000oz of gold over 10 years.
In addition, Tietto has opportunities to improve on DFS gold production by increasing project output via infill diamond drilling targeting the delineation of measured resources, deep drilling targeting underground potential below the ore reserve pit design at Abujar Gludehi (AG) core, aggressive regional exploration drilling and APG heap leach potential, which is currently being assessed. Tietto is planning to complete 120,000m of drilling in CY2023. An Abjuar resource update was released in mid-April CY23 for 3.83 million oz, an 11 percent increase from 3.45 million oz delivered in April 2022.
“We are constantly undertaking explorations to increase our resource base, which will give us very good opportunities to extend the LOM, that is currently over a decade. We aim to extend the LOM substantially, and we have a very good drilling capacity so we will up our resources via aggressive drilling,” Wang adds.
“We employ drillers – those that operate our drill rigs – ourselves, so our drilling costs are very low compared to other mining operations in the industry.”
GOLDEN YEARS AHEAD
Tietto’s operations at Abujar included the use of a 4.5 million tonnes per annum carbon-in-leach (CIL) processing system that was constructed within budget and on schedule, completed after 12 months with no debt and zero hedging – a monumental achievement for the company.
“We have a very unique in-house mine building capacity led by our Executive Director and COO Matt Wilcox,” Wang elaborates. “Abujar is the fifth gold mine that has been built in the past 12 years in West Africa, and it is through his lead on the production side of things that we have succeeded to the extent that we have today.”
Prior to his time at Tietto, Wilcox directly managed the construction of gold producer West African Resources’ (West African) 300,000oz per annum Sanbrado Gold Mine, which was completed in March 2020, ahead of schedule and under budget. He is highly experienced in the gold mining construction industry in West Africa, having spent the prior eight years working for Nord Gold, which operates nine gold mines globally, including three mines in Burkina Faso and one mine in Guinea.
“Abujar was built during a very challenging COVID-19 pandemic period, which shows the capacity, professionalism and efficiency of Tietto when it comes to project management and completion,” Wang concludes.
“It is now time to drill widely on this project and explore its potential further to produce the greatest yield of gold possible while keeping an eye out for further expansion opportunities within Ivory Coast.”