Australian gold sector posts highest annual output since 1999

The Super Pit.

Australian gold output reached its highest mark since 1999 last year, maintaining the country’s place as the world’s second largest producer behind China, the latest data from Surbiton Associates has revealed.

According to the Melbourne-based mining consultants, total Australian gold production was 301 tonnes (t), or almost 9.7 million ounces (Moz) in calendar 2017, a three-tonne increase on 2016. Output during the December 2017 quarter was six tonnes higher than the previous quarter at 80t.

“At the average gold price for 2017, the 301 tonnes was worth almost $16 billion,” Surbiton Associates director Dr Sandra Close said. “Australian gold production is still trending upwards and the next few years look promising.”

Gold prices, in both US and Aussie dollar terms, moved slowly upwards in 2017 despite the usual short-term variation, Surbiton reported. Recent spot prices for gold were around $US1315/oz or $1695/oz.

“The higher output in the December quarter was due to a number of factors including the strong recovery at Newcrest’s Cadia East mine near Orange, New South Wales, which was almost 60,000oz higher,” Dr Close said. “Other operations with higher output included the Super Pit’s increase of 28,000oz, Peak up 21,000oz and Tropicana up 19,000oz.”

Dr Close said the increase at Peak, near Cobar in NSW, was not surprising after ASX-listed Aurelia Metals acquired the mine from Canada’s New Gold for $US58 million.

Often the vendor maximises production just before an operation changes hands, Dr Close explained.

“Fosterville, the largest gold mine in Victoria, owned by Canada’s Kirkland Lake Gold, also increased production substantially by 18,000oz for the quarter,” Dr Close said.

“Notably it had the distinction of treating the highest grade of ore for any large mine in Australia – at the outstanding grade per tonne of 21.5 grams, or more than two-thirds of an ounce, of gold.”

Dr Close said there were some completely new and a number of refurbished projects due to come into production in the next year or two, which should lift gold output even further.

“Dacian Gold is due to start Mt Morgans near Laverton, WA later this month, with average production for the first four years expected to be over 150,000oz annually,” Dr Close said.

“In addition, Westgold Resources is commissioning its 1.2 million tonne (Mt) per year Tuckabianna treatment plant near Meekatharra, WA, which will ramp up to an annual output of around 100,000oz by 2020.

“As well, Gascoygne Minerals’ Dalgaranga project, northwest of Mount Magnet, is due to start up in May 2018, with production about 100,000oz/y. Also, Kin Mining, which began site clearing work at its 55,000oz/y Leonora gold project, will relocate some of the old Lawlers processing plant and should be in production before the end of the year.”

Australia remains the world’s second largest gold producer behind China which produced an estimated 430 tonnes in 2017.

Operation        Ounces            Owner
Boddington      787,000           Newmont Mining
Super Pit – JV  738,000           Newmont Mining 50%, Barrick Gold 50%
Cadia Valley      545,869          Newcrest Mining
Tropicana          461,704           AngloGold 50%, Independence Group NL 50%
Tanami              419,000           Newmont Mining

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