Sons of Gwalia and a lot more see St Barbara grow

ASX-Top 200 gold miner, St Barbara, whose Sons of Gwalia redevelopment is featured in IM’s April issue, says it plans to increase production to 1 Moz of gold by 2010 as it brings newly developed assets on stream. As an interim step, St Barbara announced today it had set an objective of increasing existing production by the end of 2008 to an annualised rate of 450,000 oz/y, from 170,000-175,000 oz currently. The 2007-2008 production gains will be reliant on St Barbara’s anticipated start-up from September this year of first production from a suite of underground and open-pit gold assets at Leonora that it acquired from the former Sons of Gwalia gold miner but which have not produced since 2003.

Addressing the final day today of the 2008 Paydirt Gold Conference in Perth, St Barbara’s General Manager Exploration, Peter Thompson, said the interim and longer term step-ups in output will come from the company’s significant and aggressive exploration and development push in the next two years. Thompson said this would include enhanced output and development at the company’s historic production centre, Southern Cross, southwest of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia – and its Leonora assets north of Kalgoorlie.

St Barbara has embarked on a A$30 million exploration and development drilling program within both provinces in 2007-2008 to drive its 1 Moz objective which is being built around a four tiered approach, comprising:

  • Taking the Company’s combined Southern Cross and maiden Leonora production output to 600,000 oz/y
  • Achieving additional growth through potential underground development of the high grade portion the Tarmoola deposit, and the Tower Hill project, north of Kalgoorlie
  • Discoveries within its WA-only holdings
  • Further acquisitions and joint ventures.

“We have achieved in recent times significant growth in gold reserves (2.3 Moz) and resources (7.8 Moz) and anticipate further reserves growth with upgrades due on the 23rd of this month and in the June quarter,” Thompson said. “Marvel Loch, within our Southern Cross interests, will however, remain the cornerstone for St Barbara in the medium term. Its total endowment of 12 Moz includes more than 20 open pit targets – underpinning our production there – as well as the potential to build Marvel Loch’s existing underground operations to 1 Mt/y at an average of 4 g/t Au from 800,000 t/y currently.”

Southern Cross’s contribution to St Barbara’s growth path will be enhanced with the commencement next month of new open pit operations at Nevoria; and three likely new open pits – Transvaal, Edwards and Axehandle – in 2009.

Thompson told delegates the maiden contributions from the new Leonora assets will commence in the September quarter this year with a 600,000 t/y, 8.4 g/t Au objective for the redeveloped historic Gwalia underground, and a similar sized but lower grade contribution – 2.0 -2.5 g/t Au – from Leonora’s planned open pit opportunities.

The current refurbishing and mine development programs for Leonora involve a A$150 million capital works schedule – and are geared Thompson said to achieve the total 600,000 oz annual output by 2010. “The additional 400,000 oz needed to secure our 1 Moz objective are anticipated to come from new projects from within our current landbank and from acquisitions and joint ventures,” he said.

St Barbara has current total reserves of 2.3 Moz of gold, a resource of 10.1 Moz and a gold exploration and development landbank in Western Australia covering 18,000 km2.