TORONTO (miningweekly.com) - The second-biggest gold-miner, Colorado-based Newmont Mining, hopes to make a final decision to build a second mine in Ghana by mid-2010, which would suggest first production at the Akyem project by late 2013 or early 2014, a senior executive said on Thursday.
Newmont received approval of the Akyem environmental impact statement earlier this year, and is now working with the Ghanaian government to obtain a mining lease, said executive vice-president for discovery and development Guy Lansdown.
Simultaneously, he said the firm is working "aggressively" to advance permitting at its Conga gold/copper project, in Peru, which could start production about a year after Akyem, pending permitting approvals and a construction decision.
"Both those projects rank right up at the top for us, and I'd say it's really a race for us to get the necessary approvals to begin development of those projects," Newmont CEO Richard O'Brien said on a conference call.
Newmont already operates the Ahafo mine, in Ghana, and has a controlling stake in the Yanacocha operation, in Peru, located nearby to Conga.
"And I think both of them provide nice economic returns for the company, even at lower gold prices than what we are seeing today," O'Brien said.
The company expects to benefit from its experience and existing infrastructure and resources in both Ghana and Peru, he added.
Once the government of Ghana issues a mining lease for Akyem, Newmont expects it can move quickly to the point where it can make a development decision, because engineering and study work at the project is already advanced.
"If we receive the mining lease and we make the development decision by mid-2010, we expect first production by late 2013 or 2014,"
The mine is expected to produce between 480 000 oz and 550 000 oz of gold a year for the first five years of operation, at costs of $350/oz to $450/oz.
The life-of-mine forecast is for about 15 years, with an initial capital investment estimated at between $0,7-billion and $1-billion, Lansdown said.
At Conga, Newmont now expects to make a feasibility decision on the project by the end of this year.
The operation has an estimated production profile of between 650 000 oz/y and 750 000 oz/y of gold and 160-million to 210-million pounds a year of copper, for the first five years. Revenue would be split more or less down the middle between gold and copper.
The initial capital expenditure is forecast at between $2,5-billion and $3,4-billion, and the mine should run for more than 20 years.
Elsewhere, Newmont is also considering its next moves at the Hope Bay project, in Canada, and continues to evaluate new projects in Nevada, O'Brien said.
The company also expects to declare commercial production at its new Boddington mine, in Australia, before the end of the year, operations chief Brian Hill said on Thursday.
The mine poured its first gold and made the initial shipment of copper concentrate in September, and will ramp up the next 12 months.
At full production, the huge openpit operation will be Australia's largest gold mine, with an annual production of about one-million ounces a year for the first five years.
Shares in Newmont rose 3,76% on Thursday, to $43,06 apiece by 15:15 in New York.
Earlier in the day, the company announced its third quarter profit doubled compared with a year earlier, and said gold production will increase by between 5% and 10% next year.