West Africa’s golden allure has attracted many an ASX explorer over the years, and recent examples show there are riches to be found for those who get it right.

The present-day ASX poster child for West African exploration success is, well, West African Resources (ASX:WAF), which built itself from a $6.5 million IPO in June 2010 to a $1 billion market cap gold producer over the course of a decade.

It was success built in Burkina Faso, fuelled by strategic acquisitions and outstanding exploration outcomes under the same leadership that last year delivered +229,000 ounces of gold for a net profit of $183.7 million.

The company has a combined JORC mineral resource of 12.6 million ounces of gold across its West African project book. As gold appetites grow globally in the face of inflation and economic uncertainty, those ounces surely shine as bright as ever.

So too do those on the books of fellow ASX-listed West African gold producers like Resolute Mining (ASX:RSG), Perseus Mining (ASX:PRU) and AngloGold (ASX:AGG) among others.

West Africa’s newest gold producer – Tietto Minerals (ASX:TIE) – is also locally listed. Other prospective gold plays, like Oklo Resources which was snapped up by B2Gold in September, have drawn M&A attention.

It’s an interesting place to be across the board, and a highly lucrative region in which to produce gold.

Is West Africa risky business?

The presence of such established producers in the region flies in the face of perceptions of West Africa as one of the riskier jurisdictions in which to do business.

That’s not to say it’s without its challenges, but like anywhere, there’s a balance to be struck. Operating in West Africa may not be as secure as doing so in Western Australia and Canada, but the potential to uncover and develop projects of scale is up there with the best in the world.

Peter Ledwidge is the managing director of Mako Gold (ASX:MKG), and an industry veteran who has more than 20 years’ experience operating in West Africa.

Ledwidge told Stockhead that the region had dramatically changed since he and his wife – who co-founded Côte d’Ivoire-focused Mako – first arrived there more than 20 years ago.

“When we first got there in the mid 1990s, we had to bring our own rigs from Canada,” he said.

“Back then you had geologists assigned to you by the government, essentially must-hires, and as a general rule they didn’t have any experience in the industry.

“Going back 15-20 years later, we’ve noticed a huge change – so much so that we don’t have any expats working for us on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire. It’s all local talent, and very good talent at that.

“Over that time you had a number of companies from a number of countries around the world come in and develop a mining industry in those countries. It’s a lot of change in a very short time.”

Ledwidge said it was unfair but common practice for some to tar all of Africa’s 54 nations with the same brush – and in some instances, the ‘African discount’ could actually be considered an African premium.

“In our experience in Côte d’Ivoire you can actually move more quickly than you could in other jurisdictions like Australia and North America,” he said.

“A big part of that is, once you find a resource, the governments get a 10% free-carry. That’s an incentive for them to make things happen quickly.

“Before we started Mako, we were with a company called Orbis Gold that discovered what is now the Boungou mine in Burkina Faso in 2012. That was taken over, but the mine went into production a good five years after discovery.

“Discovery to gold pour can happen at a premium.”

Sub-$30m MCs next in line?

A number of ASX plays are trying their hand at West African gold. Here’s a list of sub-$30 million market cap companies looking to strike it big and emulate the likes of Tietto and West African’s success on the Mother Continent.

African Gold (ASX:A1G)
Market Capitalisation: $14.73m

Drilling is underway on A1G’s Syama Shear Zone joint venture project in southwestern Mali, where JV partner and major African gold producer Resolute Mining is funding to test for mineralisation within saprolite on the project.

Syama is contiguous to Resolute’s Syama mining permit and is just 10km from the 8.7-million-ounce Syama gold mine.

Resolute can earn up to an 80% interest in the project by completing a minimum exploration spend and completing a subsequent feasibility study over an eight-year period.

Meanwhile, A1G is focused on its flagship Didievi gold project in Côte d’Ivoire, its Senegal-Mali Shear Zone projects in the north of Mali and a recent pegmatite discovery on the Agboville project also in Côte d’Ivoire.

In November, Stockhead’s Barry FitzGerald nominated A1G as a company to watch.

Golden Rim Resources (ASX:GMR)
Market Capitalisation: $20.11m

Golden Rim bills itself as “spearheading the next West African gold rush” at its exciting flagship Kada gold project in Guinea.

Most recently the company delivered standout assays including 56m at 1.7 grams per tonne gold at Kada’s Massan prospect and 9m at 2.8g/t at Bereko – drilling designed to progress closer to a resource update at the former and a maiden resource at the latter.

Bereko in particular looms as a big opportunity to add ounces to Kada’s mineral resource – which currently stands at 25.5Mt at 1.1g/t gold for 930,000oz inferred, 72% of which the company is says is contained in shallow, soft, oxide transitional material.

Mako Gold (ASX:MKG)
Market Capitalisation: $18.86m

Mako’s maiden 868,000oz resource at the Napie project in Côte d’Ivoire should come as no surprise, given its exploration team is credited with five significant West African discoveries.

That sort of experience is valuable on the ground in West Africa, and the team has now turned its attention to resource growth through the exploration of multiple targets larger than the current project resource at Napie.

Napie is 90% owned by Mako and sits on the same belt as Tietto’s 3.4Moz producing Abujar mine. The company also holds 100% of the Korhogo project adjacent to Barrick Gold’s 4.9Moz Tongon gold mine and in the same belt as Endeavour Mining Corporation’s 2.7Moz Wahgnion mine in Burkina Faso.

Marvel Gold (ASX:MVL)
Market Capitalisation: $12.69

Marvel’s Mali gold exploration portfolio grew this month, when the company reached an agreement with B2Gold Corporation to acquire its 20% stake in five exploration licences previously held under a JV between the pair.

The acquisition gave Marvel 100% ownership of the Kolondieba and Yanfolila projects, as well as several tenements contiguous with the Tabakorole project.

Tabakorole already has a +1Moz gold resource at 1.2g/t gold, and the company says it has strong growth prospects along strike and through near deposit prospectivity.

The project is held through 100% owned licences as well as a joint venture with Elemental Altus Royalties Corp.

Polymetals Resources (ASX:POL)
Market Capitalisation: $16.06m

Alongside other initiatives including its recent acquisition of the Endeavour lead-zinc-silver project, Polymetals is exploring for gold at its Alahine and Mansala projects in Guinea’s Siguiri Basin.

The company’s licences host prolific historic and current small-scale gold production from artisanal miners – a factor POL says highlights the extensive gold endowment of its areas.

A number of targets have been identified across the two projects, with Alahine the subject of drilling last year.

Sarama Resources (ASX:SRR)
Market Capitalisation: $15.86m

Listed last year, Sarama’s ambition is to capitalise on what it believes will be Burkina Faso’s next great gold district.

That’s in the southwest of the African nation, where the company’s flagship Sanutura project, the JV Karankasso project and the Koumandara project are all located.

At Sanutura, Sarama is in the midst of a regional gold camp. The project has 582,000oz gold in the indicated category of its resource, with a further 2.35Moz inferred.

At the Karankasso project, in which Sarama holds an 18% stake, a 709,000oz inferred resource has been defined.

Those are big numbers, and the company believes they could grow further off the back of a 2022 drill program which it says demonstrated space and scope to make new discoveries around historical drilling.

Endeavour Mining Corporation’s shallow Bantou deposit is in close proximity – more than 3.7Moz of gold has been delineated within a 6km radius of the Tankoro deposit at Sanutura.

Turaco Gold (ASX:TCG)
Market Capitalisation: $29.51m

At time of writing, Turaco sits right on the cusp of the market capitalisation criteria for this story. The company’s exploration focus is its Birimian greenstone terrain tenement package spanning more than 7000sq km in Côte d’Ivoire.

Led by MD Justin Tremain, who previously helmed Exore Resources before its takeover by Perseus Mining and Renaissance Minerals prior to its acquisition by Emerald Resources, the company’s most recent discovery was that of the 2km and growing Satama within the 690sqkm Eburnea gold project.

At the Odienne project, geophysical and geochemistry work have highlighted a +30km gold trend along the Archean margin and extension of the Siguiri basin, and auger drilling started this year to test for bedrock mineralisation.


At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Mako Gold and Sarama Resources are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.