The world’s hardest working gold mines

 

Gold’s stellar run this year has not only breathed new life into the exploration sector, but prompted producing mines to maximize output to make the most of higher prices.

It takes years to get a new mine into operation, expansion projects are not completed in a few months and reviving mines under care and maintenance is not a quick task. But confidence in gold’s prospects, planning, timing (and a healthy dose of luck) meant that the mines on our list hit their stride just as gold was entering an upswing.

The list below is based on a compilation from the GFMS team at Thomson Reuters plus data provided by MINING.com’s sister company IntelligenceMine. The ranking compares gold ounces produced (not gold-equivalent ounces) by existing and new mines during the first six months of 2016 with the same period last year (Q3 production figures were not available for all the mines).

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1. Cortez – Nevada, US

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Cortez – Barrick Gold

Barrick Gold’s 100%-owned Cortez isn’t the world’s number one gold producer’s largest mine. That honour goes to the nearby Goldstrike complex exploiting the same Carlin-type deposit. But during the first half of the year, Barrick extracted 495koz, 52% more than the same period last year from the open-pit and underground heap leach operation. The open pit operations have a daily movement capacity of 400kt and annual output could top 1m ounces for the first time this year. Third-quarter all-in costs were a meagre $531/oz and with proven and probable reserves of 11.2 million contained ounces, Cortez is set be Toronto-based Barrick’s workhorse for a long time.

2. El-Limon Guajes – Mexico

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El-Limon Guajes – Torex Gold

Torex Gold’s El-Limon Guajes started production in December 2015 and the open pit produced 121koz ounces during the first six months of the year on its way to annual production of an average 370koz. Proven and probable reserves of the skarn deposit are pegged at 3.6 million ounces at a grade of 2.6 g/t and the Toronto-based company plans to mine another 8.5 years for life of mine production of 3.2 million ounces, milling 14,000t per day. El-Limon Guajes is Torex Gold’s first mine.

3. Goldstrike – Nevada, US

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Goldstrike – Barrick Gold

Barrick Gold owns 100% of Goldstrike and during the first half of the year, gold output was up by just under 100koz, although costs at the open pit and underground heap leach complex have been rising too. Third quarter results showed all-in cost up $123 an ounce from last year to $681an ounce, making it the most expensive of Barrick’s five core portfolio mines. Goldstrike is the world’s second largest primary gold mine in terms of output behind Muruntau in Uzbekistan.

4. Lihir – Papua New Guinea

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Lihir – Newcrest Mining

Australia’s Newcrest Mining acquired the island-based Lihir operation in 2010 and the current run-rate (469koz in H1) could push output to the highest on record at the 20-year old mine. Production was up 25% at the wholly-owned open cut mine during the first half and is set to exceed 900koz in 2016 thanks to material moved at the site jumping to 41m tonnes. Newcrest pegs top-end output expectations for next year at 980koz. With 27.6moz in reserves and nearly 50moz in resources, Lihir should ensure Melbourne-based Newcrest remains in the top ten global gold producers over the long term.

5. Pueblo Viejo – Dominican Republic

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Pueblo Viejo – Barrick Gold

Barrick’s biggest mines are humming and Pueblo Viejo pumped out 94,000 additional ounces during the first six months of the year compared to last year. Third quarter total production jumped to the highest ever at the Dominican mine at 315koz even as all-in costs dropped to below $500 an ounce, setting up the open cut for a record-breaking 2016. Vancouver-based Goldcorp holds a 40% interest in the mine boasting 15moz of reserves.

6. Batu Hijau – Indonesia

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Batu Hijau – Newmont Mining

Newmont expects to close the $1.3 billion sale of Batu Hijau to an Indonesian group in the next few weeks, but the transaction didn’t stop the Denver-based company from extracting an additional 93koz from the operation during the first half, upping total production by nearly a third from last year’s H1 tally. That could set the mine up for output to come close to 2010’s record 737koz.

7. Kalgoorlie Super Pit – Australia

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Kalgoorlie Super-pit – Newmont Mining / Barrick Gold

The Kalgoorlie mine in Western Australia could change hands soon – Barrick put its 50% stake up for sale at the beginning of the year. Joint venture partner Newmont has expressed interest in taking full control and became operator of the iconic super-pit in May last year. Newmont’s been working the mine hard, adding 86,000 ounces of production from the orogenic body during the first half of 2016 compared to the same period last year while at the same making deep cuts to costs. Should a deal be signed between Barrick and Newmont, the Denver-based company is on track to become the world’s top producer of the metal.

8. Inmaculada – Peru

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Inmaculada – Hochschild Mining

Another newcomer on the list, Hochschild Mining’s Inmaculada in southern Peru, ramped up to produce 79koz during the first half of the year. Hochschild took full control of the mine in 2013 calling the two-thirds gold and one-third silver underground operation its new core asset.

9. Cripple Creek & Victor – Colorado

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Cripple Creek & Victor – Newmont Mining

Newmont acquired the historic CC&V surface mine, located less than 100 miles from the company’s headquarters in Denver, in 2015. Expansion at the mine included constructing a new valley leach pad, recovery plant and mill which was completed in July. During the first half Newmont upped production by 76% to 172koz at CC&V and won’t be letting up. Newmont said production would be weighted towards the latter part of 2016 for annual output of between 350koz –400koz from the two pits. Mine life has been extended to at least 2025.

10. Aurora – Guyana

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Aurora – Guyana Goldfields

Guyana Goldfields first poured gold at Aurora in August last year. In the first half of 2016 Aurora produced 73koz on the way to 2.9 million ounces, averaging 188koz a year for 16 years from the orogenic, veins and breccia deposit. The high-grade open pit and underground mine has total proven and probable reserves of 3.1moz of gold at grades of around 3g/t making it one of the world’s highest grade producing mines of this size. As the name suggest Toronto-based Guyana Goldfields is all-in in the South American nation of 770,000 people, the only country on the continent with English as the official language, with a large land package and several exploration projects.

Credit to Frik Els Editor and writer for

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Frik is editor and writer for MINING.com. Frik has worked as a financial journalist for 15 years appearing in a number of business and consumer publications including British Airways in-flight magazine, Business Insider, Investment.com, Driving.ca, YCharts and Business in Vancouver. Frik was a speaker at the 2014 Global Mining Summit in Las Vegas, the Mine Lifecycle Management conference in Salt Lake City and the 2015 Canada Investment Conference in Vancouver. (DISCLAIMER: Frik Els does not own shares or hold positions in any of the equities he writes about. Nothing written should be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any securities. Seek the advice of a broker/dealer first.)

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