Output guidance under pressure: Newcrest

PRODUCTION disruptions at the troubled Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea are expected to shave 50,000-60,000 ounces off Newcrest Mining’s gold production figures for the March quarter and put pressure on its full year output guidance.
Output guidance under pressure: Newcrest Output guidance under pressure: Newcrest Output guidance under pressure: Newcrest Output guidance under pressure: Newcrest Output guidance under pressure: Newcrest

Australia's largest locally-owned gold miner said today that a failure on the post autoclave final discharge de-aeration tank and continuing issues with restarting the processing plant had disrupted production at the Lihir operations.

The company said the tank had now been repaired and the plant restarted, however electrical and mechanical issues have caused intermittent plant shutdowns.

"These plant reliability issues are expected to adversely impact the March quarterly production of the company by 50,000 to 60,000 ounces," Newcrest said.

Newcrest acquired the Lihir operations 18 months ago, however the project has been plagued by a number of production disruptions.

In a statement, the company blamed the issues with Lihir on a "long-term underinvestment in plant maintenance".

"The production performance has been unacceptable versus Newcrest's pre-acquisition expectations," Newcrest said.

Newcrest said financial year 2012 production guidance of 2.43-2.55Moz was under pressure but should be maintained.

"Delivery will largely depend on the performance of Lihir over the next four months," Newcrest warned.

In a bid to maintain guidance, Newcrest expects to run Lihir at 65,000-75,000oz per month for the rest of the 2012 financial year.

However, the miner warned of increased probability of production disruption due to the heavy maintenance program to improve longer-term performance at the operations.

News of the production disruption comes after Newcrest was forced to downgrade its 2011-12 gold production guidance following disruptions at Lihir and Cadia Valley.

The gold miner was also forced to cut 2010-11 output guidance after a high voltage switchgear failure in the power station at Lihir causing the processing plant to operate at reduced capacity.

Shares in Newcrest have dropped $1.35 to $34.75 in late morning trade.

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