LAWRIE WILLIAMS: Australian gold output hits new record

While the world’s No 1 gold producer, China, has been seeing a general decline in output and may well see it fall below 400 tonnes this year, the world’s No2 and 3 producers, Australia and Russia both seem to be increasing annual production of the yellow metal.  The latest to come up with definitive figures is Australia which appears to have recorded a new gold production record for the calendar year ended June 30th according to Melbourne-based specialist consultancy, Surbiton Associates, which probably follows the Australian gold mining sector closer than any other organisation.

At this point it should be pointed out that down-under the fiscal year tends to run from July 1st – June 30th so the calendar year to end-June tends to provide the most accurate annual production figures available.  According to SurbitonAustralian gold production hit an all-time record of 321 tonnes (10.3 million ounces) in the year to end-June this year. This compares with 310 tonnes in the previous corresponding period and 317 tonnes in calendar 2018.  With Chinese production falling and Australian output rising, how long will it be before Australia becomes the world’s top gold producer – if Russia doesn’t get there first!

Surbiton goes on to note that Australian gold production totalled just under 82 tonnes in the June 2019 quarter making it the highest quarterly production level for more than 20 years. Gold output rose by four tonnes or almost five percent over the March 2019 quarter. With Australian dollar gold prices near record levels, the 2018/19 output is worth almost A$23 billion a year at current prices

Surbiton Director, Dr. Sandra Close added some specifics “The star performer for the year was Newcrest Mining’s underground Cadia operation in NSW which is a relatively low-grade deposit but is mined using large, low-cost block cave methods.  Cadia produced over 910,000 ounces or some 28 tonnes of gold in 2018/19, well ahead of Newmont Goldcorp’s Boddington, Australia’s second largest mine, at around 690,000 ounces or 21 tonnes.”

Perhaps pointing to the likelihood of further rises in production, Dr. Close noted that the large Gruyere operation in Western Australia, owned primarily by Australia’s Gold Road Resources and South Africa’s Gold Fields has just joined the list of Australian gold producers.  Gold Fields has noted that it has just divested itself of its 9.9% stake in Gold Road as part of its debt reduction scheme, but retains its holding in the mine itself. Gruyere, which cost some A$620 million, will produce around eight tonnes of gold a year when in full production.

“Higher production is also expected from Royal Nickel’s operations at Beta Hunt and its newly acquired Higginsville plant in Western Australia, while Kirkland Lake’s Fosterville mine in Victoria continues to build up output to around 600,000 ounces of gold in 2019,” Dr Close said.  Fosterville has just reported an extraordinarily high grade, averaging 39.9 g/t gold for the June quarter, which is almost 1.3 ounces per tonne, more akin to the grades seen in some of the famous old mines over a century ago.

Dr. Close remains positive on the potential for further increases in Australian gold output but comments “Many things can happen, I can’t predict the future and am very conscious of the many factors and uncertainties that affect gold prices, exchange rates and production.”

 Australia’s largest gold producers for the 2018-2019 financial year were:

 

Operation

Ounces

Owner

Cadia

912,778

Newcrest Mining

Boddington

689,000

Newmont Goldcorp

Tanami

525,000

Newmont Goldcorp

Tropicana - JV

518,172

AngloGold Ashanti 70%, Independence Group 30%

Super Pit - JV

490,000

Newmont Goldcorp 50%, Barrick Gold 50%

26 Aug 2019

About the author

Lawrence Williams

Lawrence (Lawrie) Williams is a well known London-based writer and commentator on financial and political subjects, but specialising in precious metals news and commentary. He is a qualified and experienced mining engineer having graduated in mining engineering from The Royal School of Mines, a constituent college of Imperial College, London - recently described as the World’s No. 2 University (after MIT).

e: lawrie.williams@sharpspixley.com