West Africa-focused miner Randgold Resources Ltd. is confident of posting record gold production in the fourth quarter, enabling it to meet its annual guidance as it expands output from its Gounkoto mine in Mali.

Chief Executive Mark Bristow told Reuters on Wednesday the company is in good shape to meet the bottom end of its 740,000-760,000 ounce target for the year, although it is unlikely to reach the upper limit of the range.

Randgold produced 506,476 ounces of gold in the first nine months, requiring it to make up around 234,000-254,000 ounces in the final quarter.

We are going to produce a record quarter whatever we do, said Bristow. We could get up there with 240,000 ounces, but even if we do 220,000 (ounces) it's going to be a significant step and a very strong end to the year.

The FTSE 100 miner produced about 440,000 ounces in 2010.

The company had originally hoped to keep its cash costs per ounce below $600 for the year, but so far they are around $705 an ounce.

I would really like to break that $700 mark and if we get it right this quarter we should get down there, said Bristow.

Earlier on Wednesday, Randgold announced a surge in third-quarter profit on higher gold prices and as production rose 80 percent to 182,362 ounces.

At 0850 GMT (4:50 a.m. EDT), Randgold shares were up 4.2 percent, outperforming a 1 percent gain in British mining stocks and making it the top gainer in the FTSE 100.

The overall tone of the statement is upbeat with all operations moving in the right direction, said analysts at Collins Stewart. The underground mines show improvements in development, which bodes well for planned production in the final quarter and into next year.

PURE GOLD PRODUCER

Profit surged to $122.9 million from $28.2 million in the year-earlier quarter. However, profit dipped 4 percent from the second quarter when the company had sold gold from its Ivory Coast mine that had been delayed due to unrest in the country.

In August, Randgold lowered its 2011 production guidance to 740,000-760,000 ounces from 750,000-790,000 ounces after abnormal rainfall hit production at its Loulo/Gounkoto mining complex in Mali.

Randgold is the only pure gold producer in the FTSE 100, although Russian's Polymetal -- a gold and silver miner -- and Polyus Gold are planning to join it there, further raising the influence of resources stocks in the index.

It is significant that more Russian companies become global and buy into corporate governance and work to attract foreign investment and that is good for Russia, said Bristow.

I hope it's the start of Russia opening up its economy and making sure that it is global. There are some fantastic mining operations in Russia, but as of today Russia has all these restrictions and a history of being less than global in the way it deals with foreign investors.

Randgold is the fourth-best performing stock in London's blue chip index this year as the company ramps up production and benefits from strong gold prices.

Gold prices have risen more than 20 percent this year, although they have slipped from the record $1,920.30 an ounce touched in September.

Share prices for many gold miners have failed to keep pace with higher gold prices, although Collins Stewart noted Randgold is among the highest correlated of the gold stocks.

As we enter what is traditionally the gold buying season and strongest two quarters for gold we are likely to see the shares perform strongly, it said.