PNG makes Newcrest a gold goliath

NEWCREST Mining is beating its major gold-producing peers in terms of discoveries, and this advantage will become even stronger thanks to its growing presence in PNG.
PNG makes Newcrest a gold goliath PNG makes Newcrest a gold goliath PNG makes Newcrest a gold goliath PNG makes Newcrest a gold goliath PNG makes Newcrest a gold goliath

In a presentation at the recent annual general meeting, Newcrest managing director Ian Smith spent considerable time discussing the benefits of the recent merger with Lihir Gold and its PNG project portfolio.

But he also addressed the mounting fears about deepsea tailing placement (DSTP) in PNG's mining industry.

Former Lihir Gold chairman Ross Garnaut copped some tough treatment from Australia's "The 7.30 Report", televised on ABC in September, with Smith likely to have some of the program's assertions in mind.

The Newcrest frontman said DSTP was chosen for Lihir Island because of its high rainfall and rugged landscape which made tailing storage dams an unsuitable option.

He added there was also high seismicity in the area plus the mining operation was close to deep water with no upswelling.

Smith said there was also strong community support for DSTP on the island.

"The 15 years of practical operating experience and scientific monitoring reinforces that this was the best choice at the time and will continue to be going forward," he said at the AGM.

"Independent marine experts have verified that the ongoing monitoring has not shown any material metals concentrations in the food chain."

While DSTP is effectively banned in Australia, he pointed out it was not banned everywhere.

"This method of disposal is used in other areas around the world where conditions are appropriate as in the Mediterranean off France and in the Black Sea off Turkey."

Looking at Newcrest's position compared to other major gold miners, Smith cited information from the Metals Economic Group in 2009.

For discoveries made by major gold producers from 1997 to 2008, Newcrest's total was calculated at 21.5 million ounces at a cost of $US12.72 per ounce in exploration.

This compared to an average of 4Moz discovered at $31.88/oz for all the other major gold producers according to this research.

But since taking over Lihir Gold the prospects for the company look brighter.

Construction for the $US1.23 billion expansion of the processing plant at the Lihir mine is set to finish at the end of 2012.

While Newcrest has made a new annual production forecast of 940,000oz for 2011-2015, which is below the long set 1Moz target for the mine, from 2016-20 annual output is expected to reach 1.27Moz.

The peak of 1.33Moz per annum is expected in 2021-25.

In the next four years annual production is scheduled to fall to 1.2Moz, then scale down to 800,000oz in 2031-35 and 670,000ozpa in 2036-2040.

Under the revised long-term schedule, production was increased by 9Moz to 31Moz for mining up to 2040 from the old profile.

While work on the Lihir expansion is underway, Newcrest and joint venture partner Harmony Gold are halfway through feasibility studies for an expansion of the Hidden Valley mine in Morobe province.

Back in July, both JV partners unearthed a new copper-gold zone at the Wafi-Golpu project in the province.

The updated resource statement in August put total resources at 640 million tonnes of ore containing 16Moz of gold and 4.9Mt of copper.

But deep drilling is demonstrating that the Golpu porphyry deposit could still be significantly larger than reported, according to Newcrest.

Smith said the Golpu target remains open and the new exploration target is 30Mt of gold and 8Mt of copper.

With the merger complete, Newcrest is ranked fourth in the world for gold reserves with 77Moz.

For resources it is ranked 5th with 136Moz.

Before the Lihir acquisition Newcrest was ranked 9th in both categories.


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