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Syama Gold Mine – the Journey towards a Class-leading Gold Mine


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Author R Sinclair, I Hunter and D Landwehr


The Syama Gold Mine, located in southern Mali, was established in 1990 by Broken Hill Propriety Limited (BHP). The operation began treating oxide, and in 1994 it transitioned to processing hard and refractory ore based on ‘whole-of-ore’ roasting. In 1996, BHP was succeeded by Randgold Resources and the operation ran until 2001, when it was placed into care and maintenance.

The Syama ore is classified as a double refractory ore with pyrite occluding the fine grained gold present in the ore and high levels of organic carbon presenting a challenge in terms of preg-robbing behaviour. The ore is extremely competent and this combination of metallurgical features was the main source of metallurgical problems encountered by the previous owners.

Resolute Mining Limited (RML) acquired the Syama project in 2004.
Following a feasibility study and the development of a revised processing flow
sheet the plant was recommissioned in 2008 using a combination of old and new
equipment. The revised flow sheet enabled primary sulfide ore to be treated by
flotation and roasting of the concentrate to produce a calcine suitable for
conventional carbon-in-leach (CIL) processing.

Commissioning and ramp up of the plant was a troubled process, with monthly gold production being as low as 3000 oz in 2010. Poor availability of equipment and lower-than-forecast recoveries were the primary contributors.

During the last five years, RML has utilised a systematic approach to improve production, focusing on mechanical reliability, metallurgical recovery and process bottlenecks. Modifications to the circuit have been as a result of both innovation and the application of technological improvements.

Improvements have been made to the flotation, roasting and CIL circuits and RML has introduced a deslime circuit to treat flotation concentrate, in addition to the very successful commissioning of a new 1 Mt/a oxide circuit in December 2014. These changes have resulted in gold production increasing to more than 20 000 oz per month in 2015.

This paper presents the processes, change implementation and outcomes of the modifications made to the sulfide circuit to address the availability and recovery problems.

Apart from the expansion of an existing, world-class deposit and discovery of new resources, future improvements on the path to a class-leading gold mine include the continued reduction of the unit cash cost, increase in overall sulfide circuit gold recovery, increased throughput through continued innovation and consistency in the plant’s operation.


Sinclair, R, Hunter, I and Landwehr, D, 2016. Syama Gold Mine – the Journey towards a Class-leading Gold Mine, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 213–224 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).