By Frederic Tomesco

June 5th, 2012

The Quebec government plans to spend C$47 billion ($45 billion) to attract mining investment over the next 25 years. Benoit La Salle, a former aid worker who runs Montreal-based Semafo Inc. (SMF), sees more opportunity in Africa and is braving military coups and mine invasions to drive the company’s expansion.

“Africa is the new frontier,” La Salle, Semafo’s chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. “That’s where you’ll find the most favorable geology.”

The operator of three gold mines in Burkina FasoGuinea and Niger, is betting it can double output in the next five years with its current properties as it scouts for acquisitions. Semafo produced about 250,000 ounces of the metal last year, and plans to reach 500,000 ounces to become Canada’s ninth-biggest producer based on 2011 production.

“Here in North America, we’ve been exploring for 300 years and there really isn’t much left in the ground,” La Salle said from Montreal. “Burkina Faso has seen seven mines built in the last five years. It’s been several decades since we saw that kind of activity in Quebec.”

Semafo, coming off a record year for net income and gold sales in 2011, said May 15 that first-quarter net income jumped 55 percent to $28.1 million as gold production reached 60,900 ounces. Total cash margin jumped 34 percent to $1,002 an ounce from a year earlier as gold prices averaged $1,694 an ounce…Read more.