| ABIDJAN, June 7
ABIDJAN, June 7 Former Chelsea soccer star
Didier Drogba has taken a stake in an Ivory Coast gold mine, the
latest sign of his increasing engagement in his homeland which
is recovering from a decade of crisis that ended in a brief 2011
Drogba, who plays for Turkish side Galatasaray but won fame
during an eight-year stint at Chelsea, will take a 5 percent
stake in the mine, the west African country's communications
minister Bruno Kone said on Friday.
No financial details were given of the deal, which is part
of a transaction involving a Canadian company increasing its
stake in the Ity gold mine, while state mining group Sodemi
gives up part of its holding.
Drogba is a national hero at home, having led Ivory Coast to
its first soccer World Cup appearance in Germany in 2006. His
career at Chelsea culminated in a victory over Bayern Munich in
last year's Champions League final, in which he scored the
He has also won popular support for his humanitarian work,
including efforts to foster reconciliation after nearly a decade
of turmoil that left the country divided between northern rebels
and southern government loyalists.
Kone said the Ity mine deal was intended to boost investment
in the mine, "which had begun to decline due to a lack of
Sodemi is giving up 14 percent of its 44 percent stake,
allowing Canadian miner La Mancha to raise its stake to 55
percent from 46 percent in the mine, which is in the west near
the border with Liberia and is the country's oldest gold mine.
La Mancha Chairman Naguib Sawiris - an Egyptian tycoon
better known for his involvement in the telecom sector - had
said in March the Canadian group had taken full control of the
mine. But the company later said negotiations to increase its
stake had not yet been completed.
The Ivorian state's stake is unchanged at 10 percent of the
mine, which has produced more than 800,000 ounces of gold since
it opened in 1991.
Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa grower, is trying to
expand its mining industry, left underdeveloped for decades as
the government concentrated its efforts on its agricultural
Total gold production stood at around 12 tonnes last year
and the government has forecast annual output reaching around 25
tonnes by 2015 as new mines come on stream.
(Editing by Daniel Flynn and David Holmes)