TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Toronto-based gold-miner Agnico-Eagle Mines poured the first gold this week at its new Kittila mine, in Finland, and has another two operations still on the way this year, vice-chairperson and CEO Sean Boyd said on Thursday.
The commissioning at Kittila had been longer than scheduled - the first concentrates were processed in November - but the company still expects to meet output forecasts, he said on the sidelines of a Toronto event hosted by metals consultancy GFMS.
“Kittila has been a bit slower than what we had hoped, but in our projections that we put out to the market in terms of ounce targets this year, we didn't include any gold output for the first three months of '09 at Kittila,” Boyd said.
Agnico-Eagle started production last year at the new Goldex mine, in Quebec, and began commissioning Kittila towards the end of the year.
The mine is anticipated to produce approximately 125 000 oz of gold in 2009, at total cash costs of around $333/oz.
At Goldex, which experienced some teething problems in its initial months of operation, Agnico continues to ramp up production, and achieved a good fourth-quarter performance, in terms of output, Boyd said.
Agnico-Eagle said in December it expects group gold production to double, to 590 000 oz this year, followed by another doubling, to 1,2-million ounces in 2010.
The company plans to start up the Lapa mine, in Quebec, in mid-2009, followed by Pinos Altos, in Mexico, during the third quarter.
A fifth new operation, Meadowbank, in Canada's Nunavut territory, is scheduled to come online in the first quarter of 2010.
'CONTINUE TO LOOK'
Despite the challenge of flipping the switch on five new mines in three years, Agnico remains focused on where future growth will come from.
The firm will publish a succession of scoping studies this year on expansions at Goldex, Kittila, Pinos Altos and Meadowbank, and Boyd said the company continues to keep its eyes open for potential acquisition targets.
“We do continue to look for things...but there is nothing out there right now that we feel we need to own,” he said.
Dozens of resources companies, particularly those without producing mines, are struggling to stay solvent, as low share valuations, difficult financing conditions and weak commodity prices take their toll, and some of their better-positioned rivals are roaming around in search of a bargain.
However, Agnico, which had about $440-million in cash and some $250-million in available credit as of September 30, is not dazzled by the discounts.
“Just because they are cheap doesn't mean they are going to become mines,” said Boyd.
However, he added that smaller firms are becoming noticeably more receptive to larger, experienced firms take a look at their operations.
There is much more of an “open-door policy, whereas six months ago they were not keen at all on having companies come in and have a look,” Boyd commented.