Pacific ops remain costly

ST BARBARA’S acquired Pacific operations are still struggling, with weather and mechanical delays pushing up total cash operating costs at the Gold Ridge mine in the Solomon Islands to a cash-burning $A2180 an ounce ($US2296.5/oz) in the December quarter.
Pacific ops remain costly Pacific ops remain costly Pacific ops remain costly Pacific ops remain costly Pacific ops remain costly

It was up 27% from the $1713/oz in the previous quarter and 60% up from the June quarter when St Barbara's acquisition of previous owner Allied Gold was first announced late in the period.

On the recent quarter performance, which included a 24% production fall from the previous quarter to 10,654 ounces, St Barbara said there were delays in ore deliveries to the plant, short-term mechanical delays and unseasonably heavy rain.

Recoveries from one pit also fell due to a harder-to-process element of "refractory ore", although access to the four pits was restored in the December quarter which should improve future recoveries through better ore blending.

Despite the bad news, St Barbara said daily throughput rates were improving, in line with its expectations.

An ordered fleet of seven articulated dump trucks and a 120-tonne excavator is due to be operational by mid-February while the company's modifications to the plant are on schedule.

St Barbara plans to ship over some of Gold Ridge's existing ADTs to its other former Allied asset of the Simberi gold mine in Papua New Guinea to assist expansions efforts there.

The Simberi mine's total cash operating costs in the December quarter was $1253/oz, just $2 up from the previous quarter.

Simberi produced 13,291oz in the recent quarter, a 3% fall from the previous quarter which was not a bad outcome considering there was unexpected downtime at the mill.

It was countered to some extent by an improvement in recoveries from 83% to 89%.

Simberi's oxide expansion project is also coming together, with two new leach tanks expected to be operational this month, while the components for the new semi-autogenous grind mill and the additional elution circuit plus tailings treatment infrastructure is onsite.

St Barbara said the civil works are near complete for theproject, while the Wartsila heavy fuel oil-fired generators are expected to be set up this month and will switch from diesel to HFO around the end of March.

Expansion opportunities in the Pacific were a key drawcard to the Allied takeover and St Barbara has scheduled an airborne topographic survey in the March quarter to fly over its Simberi, Big Tabar Island and Tatau Island tenements.

There is ongoing exploration drilling at Gold Ridge to expand mine planning efforts, with a recent result including a 12m intersection at 2.9 grams per tonne gold from a depth of 87m.

"Results to date confirm the exploration potential recognised at the time of the acquisition," St Barbara said of Gold Ridge drilling.

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