Australian gold output at its highest since 1999

KCGM operates the Super Pit gold mine

Australian gold mine production reached a 17-year high in 2016, according to gold mining consultants Surbiton Associates.

Gold output in 2016 totalled 298 tonnes, the highest annual production since 1999.

Surbiton reported the full-year production in 2016 was worth more than $15 billion at the current Aussie dollar gold price of around $1600 an ounce. The result was a 10-tonne increase, or about 3.5 per cent, compared with 2015.

Gold production during the December 2016 quarter was 77 tonnes, more than two tonnes (or three per cent) higher than the September 2016 quarter.

Surbiton director Sandra Close said it was a good year for Australian gold miners.

“We are getting very close to the 300-tonne-a-year mark but we still have a way to go to break the all-time annual record of 314 tonnes set in 1997,” Close said.

From the all-time high some 20 years ago Australian gold production had fallen to 220 tonnes by 2008, but since then had been trending upwards, Close added.

Australia was the second largest gold producing country in the world in 2016 behind China’s estimated 455 tonnes, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Rounding out the top three was Russia, followed by the US, Canada and Peru. South Africa, once the world’s largest gold producing country, is now seventh with 140 tonnes.

“Overall the Australian dollar gold price has continued to be attractive, thanks to the combination of the US dollar gold price and favourable exchange rates,” Close said.

“This has encouraged the redevelopment of previously mined areas and the refurbishment of mothballed plants, thereby pushing Australian gold output higher.”

During 2016 several larger producers in Australia maintained or slightly increased output. Newcrest Mining’s Cadia East mine in New South Wales has almost replaced production from its Cadia-Ridgeway operation.

Production at Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines’ Super Pit mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields region continued as normal. However, the widely reported sale of Barrick Gold’s 50 per cent share in the mine to Minjar Gold for $US1.3 billion seems to have stalled, Surbiton stated.

Newmont Mining’s Boddington gold mine in WA was the top producing operation in the country in 2016 with about 800,000 ounces.