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Cote d’Ivoire gained independence from France in 1960 and with the development of cocoa production for export, and foreign investment the country developed into one of the most prosperous of the West African states.

Cote d’Ivoire maintained political stability from 1960 through to December 1999 when a military coup, the first ever in Cote d’Ivoire’s history, overthrew the government. Political instability and civil war continued through to 2003 and the Ouagadougou Political Agreement was signed in 2007 aimed at re-uniting the country.

Democratic elections were held in November 2010, with Alassane Ouattara defeating incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. A 6-month stand-off ensured following the election, and in April 2011 President Gbagbo was formally removed from office. A new government under President Ouattara has formally commenced the transition process and several thousand UN troops and several hundred French remain in Cote d’Ivoire to support this transition.

In 2015, Mr Ouattara won a second five-year term with nearly 84% of the vote, in an election described as credible by US observers.

Cote d’Ivoire is located in West Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Ghana to the east, Burkina and Mali to the north, Guinea to the northwest and Liberia to the west. Cote d’Ivoire has a total area of approximately 322,462 km2 and a population is estimated to be approximately 20 million people.

The capital city is Yamoussoukro; however the city of Abidjan is the commercial and administrative centre. Cote d’Ivoire’s climate is tropical along the coast and semi-arid in the far north. There are three seasons, warm and dry (November to March), hot and dry (March to May), and hot and wet (June to October).

Minerals Industry

Cote d’Ivoire is heavily dependent on agriculture and related activities, which engage roughly 68% of the population. Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a significant producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil.

Consequently, the economy is highly sensitive to fluctuations in international prices for these products, and, to a lesser extent, in climatic conditions. Cocoa, oil, and coffee are the country’s top export revenue earners, but the country is also producing gold.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economic performance has been impressive over the past four years with a robust GDP growth which resulted in a decline in poverty. The government adopted a new national development plan for the 2016-2020 period, in addition to its national development plan (NDP) 2016-2020 which encompasses major structural reforms to achieve a sustained private sector led and inclusive growth, along with the structural transformation of the economy. The NDP 2016-2020 builds on lessons learned in the 2012-2015 NDP implementation, and aims at achieving the emerging economy status for Côte d'Ivoire in 2020, with a substantially reduced poverty rate.

Cote d’Ivoire Mining Legislation

The right to explore for minerals and develop a mine are regulated by the council of ministers through Law no. 95-553 of July 18, 1995 (the ‘‘mining code’’), decree no. 96-634 of August 9, 1996 implementing the mining code, ordinance no. 96-600 of August 9, 1996 relating to the mining activities, taxes and procedures of the mining code and the establishment of rehabilitation reserve funds.

The mining code is administered by the Ministry of Mining and Energy (the ‘‘Minister of Mining’’).

Under the mining code, all minerals and mineral waters are the property of the State. No person, whether a national or foreign, is authorized to undertake or conduct any activity governed by the mining code and the related procedures relating to environmental rehabilitation reserve funds, without the appropriate permit.

Other than prospecting and reconnaissance authorizations, the mining code provides for two mining rights or titles: exploration permits and mining permits. No legal entity is entitled to hold a mining title unless it is registered with the Cote d’Ivoire trade register and has not been placed in receivership or been declared bankrupt. Also, no natural person may acquire a direct or indirect interest in a mineral title or authorization unless he is in full possession of his civil rights.

A prospecting and reconnaissance authorization confers upon the holder thereof the non-exclusive right to prospect within the entire area of one or more administrative departments. A prospecting and reconnaissance authorization does not confer upon the holder thereof any particular right to obtain a mineral title, or any right to dispose of mineral substances acquired from prospecting activities, on a commercial basis. The term of a prospecting and reconnaissance authorization is one year and may be renewed.

A prospecting and reconnaissance authorization may not be assigned, transferred or sublet. An exploration permit is granted by decree of the council of ministers upon recommendation of the minister of mining, on submission of an application in accordance with the applicable requirements of the mining code.

A holder of an exploration permit has the exclusive right to explore for minerals within the perimeter (surface and depth) of a specified area and dispose of products extracted during exploration. The holder of an exploration permit must begin exploration activities within one year from the effective date of the permit.

The term of an exploration permit must not exceed ten years, consisting of four distinct terms, being an initial term of three years, two successive two year terms, and an exceptional renewal of up to three years. If the holder of the exploration permit satisfies its obligations and complies with the mining code during the initial term, renewals are automatically granted. Renewal may be refused if the holder of the exploration permit fails to satisfy its commitments relating to the general work programme or the minimum financial expenditure.

At each renewal of the exploration permit, 50% of the area held must be relinquished.

Exploration permits may be assigned, or transferred to another mining operator subject to the prior approval of the minister of mining and compliance with the conditions imposed by applicable regulation.

Provided that the holder of the exploration permit has satisfied its obligations under the mining code and has submitted an application for title in conformity with the applicable regulation and meets the requirement of such regulation, the minister of mining’s consent to transfer cannot be refused.

An exploration permit may be revoked or limited without right of indemnity or compensation upon notice requiring the holder or operator to remedy a default within 60 days, and failure of the holder to do so.

Such defaults entitling service of notice of revocation are limited to matters involving worker safety and health, delay or suspension of exploration activity for a period of more than one year without valid reason, disqualification of the title holder, the failure to comply with directions of a mining engineer, unauthorized transfer or assignment of the exploration permit, the failure to pay duties or taxes, and the failure to maintain and restore the site during exploration.

A holder of a mining permit has the exclusive right to extract minerals within the perimeter, surface and underground boundaries of a specified area.

The council of ministers, on the recommendation of the minister of mining, issues decrees granting mining permits to holders of exploration permits who have furnished evidence of existence of a mineral deposit within the area of the exploration permit and after a public inquiry. An application for a mining permit must be made within 60 days prior to the expiration of the term of the relevant exploration permit.

A mining permit holder also has the right to transport or cause to be transported mineral substances extracted, extracts and primary derivatives thereof, and metals and alloys of these substances, to storage, processing or loading sites, for disposal and/or export to local or external markets.

The initial term of a mining permit must not exceed 20 years, but application may be made to renew the permit at the end of the initial period. The Republic of Cote d’Ivoire has a 10% free carried interest in any mining venture undertaken pursuant to a mining permit for the life of the mine, which interest may not be diluted or otherwise decreased.

The holder of a mining permit must commence mining works on the deposit within two years after the date of grant. The holder may postpone mining works during a period of up to five years on the grounds of temporary unfavourable commercial conditions or a sudden decline in the market price for the relevant mineral.

The minister of mining may revoke a mining permit without right of indemnity or compensation upon notice requiring the holder or operator to remedy a default within 60 days, and failure of the holder to do so. Such defaults entitling service of notice of revocation are limited to matters involving worker safety and health, delay or suspension of exploration works for more than one year without valid reason, disqualification of the title holder, delay or suspension of the preliminary exploitation activities or mining for more than two years, without approval, and for reasons other than adverse market conditions.

The failure to comply with directions of a mining engineer, unauthorized transfer or assignment of the mining permit, the failure to pay duties or taxes, and the failure to maintain and restore the site during mining works.

Royalty Requirements

In addition to the taxes provided for the general taxation code, the holder of a mineral title shall be required to pay: (i) a non-refundable fixed duty, (ii) an annual land rent, (iii) an ad-valorem or proportional tax which is based on the gross revenue from minerals produced, after deduction of transportation and refining or smelting costs, and (iv) a tax on additional profits exceeding the remuneration rate of investments after corporate income tax.

The remuneration rate of investment is defined in the allotment of mining title as between two and three times LIBOR.

Environmental Regulations

A holder of a mining permit must establish a reserve fund for the rehabilitation and restoration of the site upon completion of mining activities.

The amount required to be deposited annually to such fund are determined in accordance with a schedule set by the minister of mining and are deductible from industrial and commercial profits ascribed to the mining operation.   The mining code requires the periodic monitoring of mining sites to verify the health and well-being of neighbouring populations.

Monitoring is performed by the mining permit holder, at its expense, within the framework of its environmental management programme, as approved by the minister of mining. Monitoring is also performed by the minister of mining, and if required, by international agencies experienced in the area designated by the minister of mining, at the expense of the administering authority.

In the event of pollution exceeding normal tolerance the costs related to inspections, future verifications and consequential fines are borne by the holder of the mining permit.

Environmental Impact Study

A complete environmental impact study and a programme for environmental management must be prepared, and submitted for the approval of the mining authorities and the authorities responsible for the environment before conducting any mining operations.