Australian-listed gold prospector Gryphon Minerals said on Tuesday it was looking to expand in West Africa in the next 12 months via an acquisition.

Gryphon wants to beef up its portfolio in the region to keep any potential predators at bay as it nears development of its Banfora gold project in Burkina Faso, managing director Steve Parsons told Reuters on the sidelines of the Diggers and Dealers mining conference.

"The ultimate defense is scale. As we grow Banfora, we de-risk it and get into production, some major will look at us, no doubt, Parsons said.

"If we can pre-empt that and grow our business we can stay one step ahead of that," Parsons said.

Parsons declined to name any specific targets or countries Gryphon, capitalised at A$543 million ($595.5 million), was scouting, but said Burkina Faso had emerged as Africa's fourth largest gold-producing country.

Other gold miners in Burkina Faso include Avocet Mining , IAMGOLD Corp and Cluff Mining

Gryphon last year paid about A$24 million to acquire fellow Australian prospector Shield Mining, which holds exploration ground in Mauritania.

($1 = 0.912 Australian Dollars) (Reporting by James Regan; editing by Michael Smith)