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Newcrest Halts Ivory Coast Mine, Randgold Mulls Unrest

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Newcrest Mining Ltd., Australia’s largest gold mining company, suspended operations at its Bonikro mine in Ivory Coast on the weekend because of political unrest. Randgold Resources Ltd. said it’s monitoring the situation.

The mine, located near Hire about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the commercial capital of Abidjan, produces about 120,000 ounces of gold annually, Melbourne-based Newcrest said today in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

The West African nation has seen an increasingly violent political crisis develop following a disputed Nov. 28 election in which two rivals laid claim to the presidency. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has travelled to Ivory Coast seeking to defuse the situation.

“Plans are in place to recommence operations as soon as possible,” Newcrest said. “A detailed security plan is in place and includes provision for temporary evacuation of employees should the situation deteriorate.”

Randgold said its Tongon mine in the north of the country was operating normally and it was monitoring the political and security situation. Cargill Inc. is “experiencing some challenges” while trying to operate as normally as possible.

Cluff Gold Plc’s operations are unaffected, spokesman Simon Robinson said. The company’s Angovia mine in Ivory Coast produces about 25 percent of its gold. Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s biggest maker of bulk chocolate, said cocoa factories or exports from the world’s largest grower haven’t been disrupted.

Newcrest acquired the Bonikro operation as part of the takeover of Lihir Gold Ltd. that was completed this year.

Randgold fell 2.4 percent to 5,885 pence by the 4:30 p.m. close of London trading, while Cluff slipped 2.8 percent to 111.5 pence. Newcrest rose 0.9 percent in Sydney.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elisabeth Behrmann in Sydney at ebehrmann1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Hobbs at ahobbs4@bloomberg.net

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