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Thunderbox, Gruyere buck gold production decline trend in September quarter

Neil WatkinsonKalgoorlie Miner
Gold Road Resources managing director Duncan Gibbs and Gold Fields vice president Australasia Stuart Mathews at the Gruyere mine.
Camera IconGold Road Resources managing director Duncan Gibbs and Gold Fields vice president Australasia Stuart Mathews at the Gruyere mine. Credit: Neil Watkinson/Kalgoorlie Miner

Two northern Goldfields mines are among those which bucked the national trend and produced more gold in the September quarter, the latest analysis from Surbiton Associates reveals.

The Melbourne-based gold industry consultants said Northern Star Resources’ Thunderbox mine produced 15,000 more ounces than it did in the June quarter.

Thunderbox, south-east of Leinster, has been the focus of an expansion project by Northern Star, with the company’s September quarterly report saying the mill continued to ramp-up towards its 6 million tonnes per annum nameplate capacity.

Surbiton said output at Gruyere, 160km north-east of Laverton, which is run as a 50:50 joint venture by Gold Road Resources and Gold Fields, was up by 12,000oz.

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Gold Road in October said Gruyere produced a record 88,668oz.

Evolution Mining’s Ernest Henry mine in NSW also produced 11,000oz more in the September quarter than in June.

But, overall, Australian gold mines produced five tonnes less gold in September at 75 tonnes.

Although this was 6 per cent below the 80 tonnes recorded in the June quarter, it was only about one per cent lower than the September quarter last year, Surbiton said.

Newcrest’s Cadia operation in NSW was down 29,000oz, while Newmont’s Boddington mine north-east of Bunbury produced 28,000oz less, and Agnico Eagle’s Fosterville operation in Victoria was down 22,000oz.

Nevertheless, Boddington remained the most productive mine in Australia, churning out 181,000oz in the September quarter.

Newmont’s Tanami operation in the Northern Territory was second with 123,000oz and Cadia was third with 122,683oz.

AngloGold Ashanti’s Tropicana mine 330km north-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder maintained fourth spot, producing 110,993oz in the September quarter, while Northern Star’s Super Pit in Kalgoorlie-Boulder was fifth, producing 91,525oz.

Australian mine production for the first nine months of 2023 totalled 227 tonnes, worth more than $23 billion at current prices.

“Australian dollar gold prices averaged $2945 per ounce in the September quarter, just $10 per ounce less than in the June quarter 2023,” Surbiton director Sandra Close said.

“These are high prices and, as I have often mentioned, high gold prices allow operators to reduce head grades by blending low-grade stockpiled material with the run-of-mine ore.”

Dr Close said that choosing to reduce the grade of ore being treated extended the life of the mining operation and allowed the maximum amount of gold to be extracted.

However, lower treated grade meant less gold was produced, so the costs per ounce rose.

“Just because the cost per ounce increases and the number of ounces produced declines, this does not mean that the industry is in trouble,” Dr Close said.

“Just using the cost per ounce is not a reliable measure as it fails to take account of varying treatment grades. There are much better performance indicators.”

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