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Mali gold production stable at 66.5 metric tons in 2023

BAMAKO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Mali's industrial gold production stood at 66.5 metric tons last year, almost unchanged from 66.2 tons in 2022, the West African country's mines ministry said on Friday.

Mali is one of Africa's top gold producers and home to industrial mines operated by international companies including Barrick Gold, B2Gold Corp, Resolute Mining and Hummingbird Resources.

According to the ministry's data, Barrick Gold remains the country's biggest gold producer, with an output of 23.5 tons in 2023, followed by B2Gold at 20.6 tons and Resolute Mining at 7.3 tons.

With an estimated 6 tons produced in artisanal mines, Mali's total gold production in 2023 is expected to reach 72.5 tons, the mines ministry said.

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Industrial gold output remained stable year-on-year, failing to reach the forecast of 67.7 tons announced by a mines ministry official.

Last November, Mali signed an agreement with Russia to build a 200-ton-per-year gold refinery in the capital Bamako.

It also adopted a new mining code that will allow the military-led government to increase its ownership in mining projects to 35% from 20%.

More than 70 artisanal gold miners were killed in Mali's southwestern Koulikoro Region last week after the shaft they were working in collapsed.

Artisanal mining is a common activity across much of West Africa and has risen in recent years due to growing demand for metals and rising prices. Deadly accidents are frequent, however, as these miners often use unregulated digging methods. (Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)