LAWRIE WILLIAMS: Australia's Q1 gold output down on Q4 2016 but....
Australia is the world’s second largest gold producer after China and, according to specialist Melbourne-based consultancy, Surbiton Associates, its mines produced 298 tonnes of gold in 2016. World No. 1, China, produced 463.7 tonnes according to figures from GFMS. (The latter’s estimate of Australian production in 2016 was slightly lower than that from Surbiton Associates at 287.3 tonnes, but is at least in a similar range) – we might defer to Surbiton’s figure being a local consultancy which specialises in Australian statistics only.
Surbiton’s latest assessment of Australian production is for the March quarter of the current year which puts the production figure at 71.5 tonnes, around 8% down on the December quarter last year of 77.5 tonnes but, as Surbiton indirectly points out this doesn’t necessarily mean that Australian production for the full year will be lower than last. The March quarter is a couple of days shorter than other quarters containing the short February month and mine output was also affected by some particularly wet weather which impacted particularly on several of Australia’s largest gold mines. Surbiton’s Dr Sandra Close notes in particular reduced output because of the wet weather at Newcrest’s Telfer operation, which was down by 35,000 ounces, Newmont’s Tanami mine, down 25,000 ounces, Anglogold/Indepence’s Tropicana mine, which saw a fall of 22,000 ounces and Newmont/Barrick’s Kalgoorlie Super Pit down by 16,000 ounces.
But despite this disruption the country’s total March quarter gold output was similar to that of the 2016 March quarter which came in at 71 tonnes according to Surbiton’s figures of a year ago, which suggests Australia’s total gold production is still on the rise. With a mega producer like Australia still showing gold production strength, this confirms the assessment by the major consultancies that peak gold may well not be with us yet, particularly given Q1 tends to be the lowest quarter for gold production in the Australian year. On this basis there has to be a good chance that Australia’s full year 2017 gold output could exceed 300 tonnes.
As Dr Close notes ““The Australian gold industry continues to benefit from a relatively stable, relatively attractive, Australian dollar gold price, maintained in part by a favourable US dollar exchange rate, with an Australian dollar worth around US 75 cents…This has encouraged further activity in the sector, including the start-up of several mothballed treatment plants…. Some years ago when the Australian dollar was strong and worth more than one US dollar, over half of the mineral exploration expenditure by Australian companies was being spent overseas,” Dr Close went on. “It is encouraging that more recently this seems to have turned around, as we note that now there is a greater emphasis on exploration within Australia.”
She also noted that there were a number of new mines and expansions under way. Notably production is continuing to ramp up at Blackham Resources’ Wiluna, WA project. Westgold Resources’ Fortnum, WA operation is currently being commissioned and Eastern Goldfields’ Davyhurst, WA treatment plant is nearing production. Maximus Resources, wh ich bought Ramelius Resources’ mothballed Wattle Dam plant near Coolgardie, expects to toll treat ore from other companies soon. Also, Toronto-listed Monument Mining Ltd hopes to bring its Burnakura, WA treatment plant into production later in 2017. All this bodes well for continued Australian output growth which may well offset reductions elsewhere in the world.
A marginally stronger gold price will also be helping global gold output, although a weakening of the US dollar against local currencies mat be giving some cause for concern.
To see more details on the latest Surbiton Associates analysis and comments, including a ranking of Australia’s top five gold mining operations, click on: Australian Q1 gold output cut by wet weather