Gold Fields’ new Chile mine delivers its first gold

2nd April 2024

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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The new Salares Norte mine, in Chile, has produced its first gold, Johannesburg- and New York-listed Gold Fields reported on Tuesday.

The new mine, which is key to the company achieving its gold production ambitions of 2.8-million ounces by next year, has suffered several delays over the last couple of years.

“We are incredibly excited to have reached this milestone and delivered first gold in line with the updated project schedule, as we committed in December 2023. Salares Norte is a world-class project with one of the industry’s lower cost profiles and a payback period of less than three years at current gold prices,” said CEO Mike Fraser.

Gold Fields is expecting gold production of 250 000 oz at an all-in cost (AIC) of $1 790/oz to $1 850/oz for 2024. In 2025, Salares Norte will produce 580 000 oz.

Over the first five years of production, the operation is set to produce 485 000 oz/y at an AIC of $790/gold-equivalent ounces (GEO), while GEO over the life-of-mine (2025 to 2033) is expected to be 360 000 oz/y at an AIC of $820/GEO.

The project capital cost estimate was reaffirmed at $1.18-billion to $1.2-billion. The project costs have increased due to the delay in the start-up, as well as an increase in the number of contractors on site and higher contractor rates.

Gold Fields has taken Salares Norte from discovery through to exploration and development to production over the past 13 years.

“Salares Norte's construction is credit to the innovation, experience, commitment, and persistence of the teams that worked on the project. To build a remote mine at 4 500 m above the sea level with winter temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius and amidst a global pandemic is an incredible feat," said Fraser.

The mine has a significant and positive economic and social impact in the Atacama region and Chile in general. Salares Norte will increase Chile’s gold production by 40% and position it as one of the main producers of the metal in South America.

It is the first greenfield project in the country in over a decade, will create about 900 permanent jobs and contribute about $800-million in direct and indirect taxes over its current 11-year life-of-mine. Over 26% of the mine’s employees are women, which is double the average of the Chilean mining industry.

In line with Gold Fields’ policy, Salares Norte has sought to employ local community members and favour local businesses in the supply of goods and services to the mine. It has established working relationships with 175 suppliers from the Atacama region.

While the nearest town to the project, Diego de Almagro, is 180 km away, the team has also engaged with the host community from the beginning of construction, establishing more than 30 co-operation agreements with indigenous communities, 17 agreements with educational institutions, and training over 600 students through its mining training programmes.


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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