Rising gold production has helped lift Australia’s March- quarter gold output to its highest level this millennium.
Despite Kalgoorlie’s Super Pit suffering a hangover from its north-east wall slip in May, gold mining consultancy Surbiton Associates said national gold production hit 78 tonnes in the three months to March 31.
This is the highest March- quarter production since the first quarter of 1998, when gold production was 81 tonnes and heading south amid a falling bullion price.
In both the March quarter of 1998 and 2019 production was about 4 per cent down on the prior December quarter, reflecting the first period of the calendar year being shortened by February and production being interrupted by the tropical wet season. Australian producers recording higher gold output included Gold Fields’ St Ives operation, Newcrest’s Telfer and BHP’s Olympic Dam mine, according to Surbiton figures.
Surbiton Associates director Sandra Close said despite some production being interrupted in Queensland by the wet this year, the northern part of WA was far less affected the normal.
Dr Close said the March-quarter production was up six tonnes on the corresponding figure in 2018.
The full-year production for 2018 was a record 317 tonnes, breaking the 1997 record of 314.5 tonnes. Annual production fell to 220 tonnes a decade ago before steadily recovering.
“For some years local gold production has been rising,” Dr Close said. “Many producers have been taking advantage of the Australian dollar gold price over that period, as it has continued an upward trend, despite the usual volatility.”
The Super Pit rock falls continued to take their toll in the first quarter, with Surbiton saying the quarter production had plunged to 108,000 ounces from 174,000 in the corresponding period at the start of last year.
“Something happens to everybody — but the Super Pit is in the pits at the moment,” Dr Close said.
This bumped the one-time king of Australian gold mines out of the top five producers for the quarter and left Newcrest’s Cadia East Mine in NSW and Newmont Goldcorp’s Boddington mine as national leaders.
Surbiton is expecting a new contributor to national production to emerge in the September quarter with the first full period of production from Gold Road Resources and Gold Fields’ Gruyere gold mine.
The $600 million mine, near Laverton, is tipped to produce up to 120,000 ounces in its debut year and then up to 300,000 ounces a year for a dozen years.
Dr Close described as “rather fanciful” some recent media reports that Australian mines were “running out of gold” and that Australian gold production was on a “production cliff.”
“It should be remembered that Australia is a land of generally small and medium-sized gold mines and large multimillion- ounce discoveries are quite rare,” Dr Close said.
“Just because such large deposits are seldom discovered locally, it does not mean that total Australian gold production is about to fall in a heap.”
Source: The West Australian, 27 May 2019