Gold miner AngloGold Ashanti produced first gold from its new, renowned Tropicana joint venture project ahead of schedule and on budget and for this has been won the Hard Rock Mine of the Year award.
The mine will have a nameplate processing capacity of 5.5 million ounces per annum over its current ten year life and is expected to produce up to 4.7 – 4.9 million ounces during its first three years of operation.
The increased early years of operation reflects the strategy of processing higher grade ore during the project payback period.
It is estimated cash costs for Tropicana will be between $590 and $630 per ounce.
Located 300 kilometres northeast of Kalgoorlie, the operation was originally forecast to begin production in December last year, but commissioning was moved forward and first gold was poured in September 2013.
Despite moving ahead of schedule the estimated capital expenditure for the project is unchanged at between $820 and $845 million.
Tropicana's production for the second quarter of 2014 was 93,000oz at a total cash cost $498/oz, in line with budget.
The processing plant reached nameplate throughput capacity in the March quarter and this rate was maintained in the June quarter.
Tropicana has been on the radar of many analysts for some time now after the joint venture partners, Anglo gold and Independence Group, announced that they had upped the total estimated resource to 7.89 million ounces of gold.
It is the first greenfields gold discovery to be brought into production in Australia for more than a decade.
AngloGold Ashanti says innovation has been incorporated into the design of Tropicana's mining and processing systems, from the start of exploration through to environmental management and closure planning.
Open pit mining utilises conventional drill and blast methods. Over the life of the mine four pits – the Tropicana, Havana, Boston Shaker and Havana South pits will be mined in several stages. The pits will stretch over a length of five kilometres and a width of 1.2 km. The life of mine stripping ratio will be 5.5:1.
"To pour gold ahead of schedule and within budget is a rare feat in this industry and it's a significant milestone for us and Independence Group, our partner," Graham Ehm, AngloGold Ashanti's executive vice president Australia, Group Planning and Technical, said.
"We've been able to incorporate innovation into our approach to everything from environmental management to the design of our mining systems and the processing plant. We have also engaged with the local community to provide employment as well as opportunities for local businesses, with contracts worth more than $30 million per annum awarded to Aboriginal businesses."
The company said it will now target finding additional mineralisation close to the plant, while testing the promising targets through its joint venture tenement.
The joint venture now holds approximately 10,500 square kilometres of tenements in what is recognised as a new gold province.
"What we've found and now built, is a tier-one asset which we believe only scratches the surface of a new gold district," AngloGold Ashanti chief Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan said.