The government of Mali has signed an agreement in principle with the government of Russia to build a gold refinery in the Malian capital of Bamako.
Turkish news agency Anadolu reports that the plant will be able to process 200 tonnes of gold a year, making it the largest in West Africa.
Mali has suffered persistent instability and violence and is ranked among the 10 poorest countries in the world.
At present prices, the amount of gold the refinery would produce would have a market value of $13.5bn, or about 70% of Mali’s GDP.
The news of the agreement was announced by Alousseni Sanou, Mali’s finance minister, on national television station ORTM.
He said the project should make it possible “not only to control all gold production, but also to correctly apply all taxes and duties”.
Mali, one of Africa’s largest gold producers, produced 72 tonnes of gold last year, which has a value of around $4.8bn.
Gold accounts for around one-quarter of Mali’s fiscal resources, making it one of the leading gold-producing countries on the continent. Most of Mali’s gold is exported to South Africa, followed by Switzerland and Australia.
Relations between Mali and Russia have strengthened in recent years, particularly after the coup of May 2021 and the withdrawal of French forces after Operation Barkhane in 2022.
These were replaced by personnel from Wagner Group, a private military company with links to the Russian state.