Who can honestly say life is not filled with rich ironies? One of SA’s most notorious business people, Brett Kebble, died in 2005, notionally in a kind of assisted suicide after his mining empire collapsed. A small branch of that empire has now become part of what could be soon the largest gold company in the world. One sensible thing that Kebble did — perhaps the only sensible thing — was to support Mark Bristow and Randgold Resources, then a partly owned subsidiary of Kebble’s Randgold & Exploration. Bristow wanted to start a gold mine — in Mali of all places. That small mine grew into a giant mining house. In the process, Randgold Resources became one of the top 10 performing stocks on the FTSE 100 over the past decade. It has never reported a quarterly loss or taken a write-down. And that, in the gold industry, is incredible.

At the weekend, the world’s second-largest miner, Barrick, and Randgold announced an unusual deal. First, it’s a nil-premium takeover by the Canadian...

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