LAWRIE WILLIAMS: Best March Quarter from Australia’s Gold Mines for 21 years

With the world’s second and third largest gold producers, Australia and Russia both vying with each other for the global No.2 position after China, and increasing output, peak gold looks like it could be ever more distant. At the current rate of growth and with China’s output declining, one of these countries could become the world’s largest gold producer inside the next few years.

We have just received the March quarter figures for Australian gold production from Melbourne-based consultancy, Surbiton Associates, which consistently provides the most accurate statistics for Australian gold, in which it specialises.  This puts March quarter national production at 78 tonnes - the highest March quarter total for 21 years.

Surbiton Director, Dr. Sandra Close, points out that March quarter gold output is usually the lowest of the year as it has one or two less days in it than other quarters and also tends to have more weather-related disruptions than other times of the year.  The March figure suggests an annual production level of around 320 tonnes, particularly as the big Gruyere gold project for Gold Road Resources and Gold Fields is due on stream in the June quarter.  This is expected to produce around 3 tonnes plus this year and build up to 9-10 tonnes of gold next.

Several mines increased output quite substantially in the March quarter including Gold Fields’ St, Ives mine and Newcrest’s Telfer operation  Each of these mines raised output in the quarter by close to half a tonne of gold.

March output rose overall despite production shortfalls at Tanami, Cadia East and Tropicana.  Output at Newmont Gold Corp/Barrick Gold’s Kalgoorlie Super Pit was also down following last year’s rock falls on the north east pit wall.   March quarter production in 2019 at 3,36 tonnes, was well down on the 5.4 tonnes of gold produced in the corresponding quarter in 2018.

Sonme of these production shortfalls will be recoverable,

According to the United States Geological Survey, Australia has the largest reserves of gold of any country with 9,800 tonnes, or enough for 31 years’ production at current rates.   Dr. Close thus described as ‘fanciful’ some reports that Australian gold output may be due to ‘fall off a cliff’.

She commented that one such report suggested nthat annual Australian gold production would fall by one-third to only 212 tonnes by 2022 as older mines ran out of ore and closed.  “There are many factors that affect ore reserves and therefore the life of each mine,” Dr Close said. “I cannot predict the future but at the moment there do not appear to be major causes for concern on the horizon.” 

“Changes in gold prices and exchange rates plus changes in costs, right through from exploration to mining and processing, are all factors which affect the economics of mining any individual deposit and therefore the longevity of any particular mining operation. It should also be remembered that Australia is a land of generally small and medium-sized gold mines and large multi-million 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.” she went on.

Dr Close also noted that “For some years now we have seen local gold production rising,  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.”  In Australian dollars the current gold price is around A$1,855 an ounce!

Australia’s largest gold producers for the March 2019 quarter were:

Operation

Ounces

Owner

 

Cadia East

218,819

Newcrest Mining Ltd

 

Boddington

155,000

Newmont Goldcorp 

 

Tanami

  131,000

Newmont Goldcorp

Fosterville

128,445

Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd

 

Tropicana - JV

123,236

AngloGold 70%, Independence Group NL 30%

 

26 May 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