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Newmont looks to the future in Ghana

Newmont looks to the future in Ghana

Fri Apr 13 2018


US gold major Newmont Mining, one of the top global gold producers, expects to put up a new growth project – Ahafo North – for funding approval in 2019, according to Newmont regional senior VP for Africa Alwyn Pretorius.


Ahafo North, located 50 km north of the existing Ahafo gold operations, is a potential surface mine centred on lime deposits over a 14-km strike length. The site contains 3.3-million ounces of reserves and more than one-million ounces of resources.


“Current plans [for the operation] include building a standalone mill to process between 3.5-million and 4-million tons of ore a year,” Pretorius stated at Newmont’s Investor Day in December. The initial estimates for the project include an investment of about $750-million, a potential yearly production of about 250 000 oz and a mine life of 13 years.


“We expect to reach a decision to proceed in the second half of 2019 and construction will take about three years,” Pretorius claimed, adding that “Ahafo represents the next generation of profitable production for [Newmont] in Ghana”.


The Ghanaian government has approved Newmont’s Mining Area declaration, and the company has registered with the environmental protection agencies.


Ahafo Operations


As Newmont’s Ahafo operation faced rising costs, owing to deeper mining levels and declining ore grades, the company implemented several initiatives to mitigate the impacts and to lower costs.


Ahafo comprises four surface mines, one underground mine, stockpile ore feeding, and a conventional mill with a carbon-in-leach circuit. Newmont improved mine plans and productivity, while reducing direct operating costs.


One initiative was the introduction of a 5º well steepening of the Subika openpit, a practice that Newmont borrowed from the Boddington gold mine, in Australia. The initiative is expected to reduce costs by $10-million a year over the next three years through reduced waste stripping.


Another initiative was the installation of pulp lifters at the semi-autogenous grinding mill. Throughput was increased by 2% from 2015/16 and reduced power usage over the same period.


Other initiatives include expansion plans for the Subika underground mine and the Awonsu surface mine. The Subika mine will provide access to higher grade ore beneath the openpit. This mine will include an autonomous loader. Commercial production is expected to start in the second half of 2018.


In the company’s full-year results, released in February, Newmont maintained that the Subika underground mine development project is expected to increase average yearly gold production by between 150 000 oz/y and 200 000 oz/y for the first five years, starting in 2019 with an initial mine life of about 11 years. Capital costs for the project are estimated at between $160-million and $200- million with expenditure of between $80- million and $90-million in 2018.


Layback at the existing Subika mine started in January, and layback will start at the Awonsu surface mine in 2019.


“The expansion supports more efficient processing of harder, lower grade ores from the surface mines,” Pretorius claimed.


Meanwhile, first production from the Ahafo mill expansion project is expected in the first half of 2019 with commercial production expected in the second half of 2019. The expansion is expected to increase average yearly gold production by between 75 000 oz and 100 000 oz for the first five years starting in 2020. Capital costs for the project are estimated at between $140-million and $180-million with expenditure of about $75-million to $85- million in 2018.


Ghana is the second largest gold producer in Africa after South Africa, with Newmont being responsible for 32% of the country’s gold production.