WESTERN Australian gold miners have responded to the record prices for the precious metal by lifting production in the past year.
As investors continue to view gold as a safe haven against floundering economies, WA miners of bullion raised output by 12 per cent to 5.9 million ounces during the last financial period.
To start 2011-2012, production across WA’s major gold operations fell compared with the previous quarter, according to data compiled by mining consultants, Surbiton Associates.
Production at the Kalgoorlie Super Pit, the region’s premier gold mine, dropped by 14,000oz during the three months but remained one of the top producing mines in Australia overall.
However, Sandra Close, a director at Surbiton, explained that gold miners were taking advantage of higher prices to process slightly lower grade ore and lower grade stockpiles.
“Although this leads to lower production, it allows a more effective use of gold resources,” Dr Close said.
During the 2011 financial year, the Super Pit was Australia’s top producing mine with 788,000oz, while the St Ives mine, owned by South Africa’s Gold Fields, was next best in the Goldfields region (and fourth overall) with 472,000oz. Boddington and Telfer were the second and third top-producing mines with 757,000oz and 621,290oz respectively.
And mining companies remain bullish about gold, with 80 per cent of the firms surveyed in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual gold price report expecting the precious metal to increase in 2012. The majority of the survey’s respondents said they expected gold to peak at $US2,000 an ounce during the year.
Meanwhile, nickel miners in the Goldfields were at their most buoyant since the GFC as prices for the metal made a gradual recovery in 2011.
A 24 per cent increase in the nickel price during the 2011 financial year resulted in the value of nickel sales rising by 13 per cent, as production increased by 4 per cent to 187,000 tonnes in WA, according to data compiled by the Department of Mines and Petroleum.