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Mali demands Randgold pay half of $80 mln tax claim before talks

BAMAKO Oct 10 Mali's government ordered Randgold Resources on Monday to pay half the 46.89 billion CFA francs ($80 million) it says the London-listed miner owes it before opening talks about the remaining sum.

The government last week closed the offices of companies controlled by Randgold, leaving three of its mines there operational.

In a statement on Sunday, Randgold said it has been advised that "a large portion" of the government's tax claim is unfounded and that it looked forward to discussing the dispute with authorities.

"We have said that we first demand the payment of 50 percent," Mohamed Lamine Samake, an adviser to the economy ministry, told Reuters. "And that then, we will come to the table to discuss a repayment schedule for the remainder."

Samake also said Randgold must provide accounting information to the government that it has refused to give to tax authorities.

A Randgold spokeswoman said CEO Mark Bristow was not immediately available for comment.

Randgold says its mines account for between 7 and 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa's third-largest gold producer. Gold and cotton are the two largest exports and it produces around 50 tonnes of gold annually. ($1 = 587.75 CFA francs) (Reporting By Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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