St Barbara slowly overcomes COVID at Simberi

St Barbara

St Barbara has more than halved its gold production target at the Simberi gold mine in Papua New Guinea as a COVID-19 outbreak comes back under control.

Production guidance for the 2022 financial year (FY22) at Simberi was withdrawn on February 18, as COVID-19 cases rose significantly and concurrently with an attempted ramp-up of operations.

St Barbara had been targeting between 60,000 and 70,000 ounces of gold from Simberi, for a Group target of 305,000 – 355,000 ounces, before the guidance was withdrawn.

Now, upon gaining more certainty as cases plateau, the company expects to produce between 25,000 and 30,000 ounces of gold in FY22 at Simberi.

Subsequently, the Group production now stands at 275,000 – 290,000 ounces of gold, with St Barbara’s Leonora and Atlantic operations currently unaffected by COVID-19.

The company gave an update on the current situation with infected employees.

“At its peak, the outbreak caused 270 people at the Simberi operation to be in isolation of its circa 600 regular daily workforce,” the company stated.

“Currently, there are 12 employees in isolation and the outbreak is considered to be under control.”

Simberi was only beginning to ramp up operations following a restart in early 2022.

The mine was shut down in May 2021 following the onsite death of a worker, while the failure of its DSTP pipeline hampered proceedings even further.

The virus’ outbreak is now expected to have a flow-on effect, with ramp-up impeded and availability of specialist personnel an ongoing issue.

“Notwithstanding the restoration of national workforce numbers, the company has determined that ramp-up rates will be slower than previously anticipated,” St Barbara stated.

“The ongoing difficulties with securing expatriate maintenance specialists and operations management is expected to impact Q4 FY22 and the new guidance range reflects that assessment.”

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