ABIDJAN, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Endeavour Mining has opened negotiations with local people in Ivory Coast in an effort to head off protests at two gold mines where the company aims to boost production by nearly 4 percent this year, its country manager said on Friday.
The Canadian company’s Agbaou and Ity mines yielded a combined 236,000 ounces of gold last year, and plan to produce 245,000 in 2018.
But operations in Agbaou were repeatedly disrupted last year by protesters demanding more mining jobs and compensation for land affected by mining.
“This week we started a social dialogue with populations, which will allow us to work in perfect harmony with them,” Daniel Yai said.
He said company representatives discussed development projects as well as compensation schemes with villagers near Agbaou, which is located 200 km (125 miles) northeast of the commercial capital Abidjan.
“We want to avoid behavior that blocks mining operations,” Yai added.
Jephte Koffi, a young activist and protester near Agbaou told Reuters: “We will follow and help ... all initiative aiming for the development of our village,” he said, adding that he was happy for this dialogue.
Yai said a $400 million construction project to upgrade the Ity mine would also begin this year and is due to be completed in mid-2019.
“Important investments have been made and new deposits have been discovered. The mine will have a lifespan of about fifteen years,” said Yai, adding that the upgrades would boost output.
Endeavour also owns mines in Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso, from which it expects to produce between 670,000 and 720,000 ounces of gold in 2018.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, aims to increase gold output to diversify its economy. Last year, the country produced around 25 tonnes of gold. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Jane Merriman)