Randgold Resources updated the market on its Massawa gold project in Senegal on Tuesday, reporting that the feasibility study was nearing finalisation, with a development decision scheduled for the end of the year.
The FTSE 100 company's chief executive Mark Bristow and the executive team were in Senegal to inspect the project, and update the Senegalese government on its progress.
At a briefing, Bristow said the latest testwork showed that 75% of Massawa's ore reserves could be processed through the "simple, low-cost" gravity and leach method, overcoming the obstacle initially presented by the project's complex metallurgy.
The remaining 25% would be produced at the end of the mine's life, either through the BIOX process or sold as concentrate to a specialised process facility.
"Continuing exploration is focused on expanding the Massawa reserve and while it is still short of Randgold's three million ounce minimum requirement, the project's other metrics are positive," said Randgold's general manager of exploration, Joel Holliday.
An inter-ministerial government commission had been appointed to oversee the project's licensing and development protocols, with a public consultation process set down to start next month.
Randgold said a draft environmental and social impact assessment study was also scheduled for submission in July.
Ahead of the development decision, Randgold said it had already been investing in local community projects, with the emphasis on improving educational and healthcare facilities and providing potable water.
In line with its policy of local employment, 70% of the project's workforce had been recruited from surrounding villages.
Massawa was discovered by Randgold in 2007 and was described as "one of the larger" undeveloped gold deposits in West Africa.
Its relatively long gestation period was said to be a reflection of the company's "tenacity and thorough approach" to exploration, and a further example of its "discipline" in bringing projects to account.