Tag Archives: Red Chris

Newcrest looks to new FMS, haul truck trays for Red Chris improvements

With gold and copper production dropping and costs increasing, the Red Chris mine, in British Columbia, Canada, is set for a number of improvement initiatives, according to 70% owner Newcrest Mining.

In the company’s September quarter results, Newcrest said Red Chris gold and copper production came in at 12,636 oz and 7,050 t, respectively, during the three-month period. This was down from the 15,440 oz of gold and 8,401 t of copper registered in the June 2020 quarter.

Newcrest said the circa-3,000 oz drop in gold output reflected a higher proportion of lower-grade stockpile material being fed to the mill due to unseasonal rainfall hitting the availability of higher grade ex-pit material.

This lower-grade mill feed adversely impacted recovery rates, partially offset by a 13% increase in mill throughput following process control improvements and a higher proportion of stockpiled material with “characteristics that enabled increased processing rates”, it said.

Red Chris’ all-in sustaining cost of $2,621/oz in the September quarter were significantly up on the $1,536/oz seen in the previous quarter. This was driven by increased sustaining capital expenditure, higher operating costs due to “seasonal benefits allowing increased activities to be scheduled”, together with the impact of a strengthening Canadian dollar against the US dollar and lower copper sales volume, it said. These factors were only partially offset by the benefit of a higher realised copper price.

With one quarter of Newcrest’s 2021 financial year down, the company said it is planning to put in place a number of additional improvements across the site. Included in this is a new fleet management system, the replacement of the conventional Cat 793 truck trays with “high-performance trays” to realise payload benefits, and several throughput and recovery-related projects.

The company has 45,000-55,000 oz of gold and 25,000-30,000 t of copper production slated for Red Chris in its 2021 financial year.

Upon announcing the acquisition of a majority stake in the asset in 2019, Newcrest Managing Director and CEO, Sandeep Biswas, said there was potential to turn the Red Chris orebody into a Tier 1 operation.

It also outlined a two-stage plan to deliver value from the $806.5 million acquisition. This included applying its “Edge transformation approach” to the existing Red Chris open-pit mine and processing plant, and potentially leveraging industry leading mining methods and technology such as block caving, coarse ore flotation and ore sorting.

Gold price rise revealing exploration deficit, Wood Mackenzie says

Even though the resurgent gold price has garnered a renewed sense of optimism in the gold industry, a lack of exploration spend from miners means it is facing a potential period of secular decline over the long-term, according to Wood Mackenzie’s gold team.

Exploration budgets were slashed following the fall in the gold price from the highs that were reached in 2011/2012 and they have since failed to recover, according to Wood Mackenzie.

“The slight rebound in exploration spend we have seen over the past couple of years has largely been focused on brownfield projects and near-mine development,” the analysts said. “This has not been sufficient to replenish mined ounces and, as such, peak gold supply is now a very real possibility.”

Over the past couple of months, with gold breaking through $1,500/oz, it seems that exploration activity may be turning a bit of a corner.

The analysts provided evidence:

  • In late June, Agnico Eagle Mines started an exploration drilling program at its Amaruq site in an effort to convert underground indicated resources;
  • On September 4, Polyus announced the completion of an exploration drill program at its Sukhoi Log project (pictured) that totalled 203,647 m and is planning 30,000 m of infill drilling in 2020; and
  • On September 10, Newcrest reported that its exploration program on the Havieron project, located 45 km east of Telfer in Australia, has four operating drill rigs, which have cut 6,166 m and a fifth drill will begin in September.

It will be some time, however, before this activity translates into reserves and ultimately into production.

Proposed exploration budgets for the largest producers in 2019 remain fairly conservative compared with the levels reached in 2012, according to the analysts. It would therefore seem unlikely that the trend in declining reserves will be abated this year.

Producers have been very vocal in reaffirming their strategy of cost control, portfolio management and capital discipline, particularly since the run up in the gold price, ensuring they do not get criticised for the same type of costly M&A and marginal project spend they carried out in the previous gold price highs.

“How steadfast miners will be to this strategy into 2020 and beyond, if prices continue to remain well supported, remains to be seen,” the analysts said.

Due to insufficient exploration spend, gold reserves have depleted significantly with the global average mine life falling from 16 years in 2012, to an estimated 11 years in 2018, they said. However, the largest producers are not facing quite such an acute situation, with their collective average mine life still over 16 years. “It is perhaps therefore not so surprising that they can afford a more calculated approach to replenishing reserves.”

To secure their longevity as pillars of the gold industry, Wood Mackenzie said it has seen heightened M&A activity and miners focusing on their core assets. While this may help to bolster balance sheets through improved operational performance and realised ‘synergies’, it seemingly does little to address the problem the industry is facing with regards to how to sustain current production levels.

“We have, as of late, noticed an uptick in some majors opting to increase their footholds in a select few juniors with promising exploration opportunities,” the analysts said.

Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti, Kinross and Newcrest are actively investing in, or entering into joint-ventures with junior gold companies to create long-term value.

Agnico Eagle announced a proposal on June 24, 2019 for an all-share acquisition of Alexandria Minerals Corporation at a $0.05 per share premium to the Chantrell Ventures Corp offer; however, O3 Mining acquired Alexandria on August 1, 2019.

AngloGold Ashanti upped its stake in Pure Gold Mining to 14.3% on July 16, 2019, which owns the Madsen gold project in Red Lake, Ontario.

Kinross purchased the near-surface, early-stage Chulbatkan project in Russia from N-Mining Limited for a total consideration of $283 million on July 31, 2019.

And, Newcrest entered into a 70-30 joint venture with Imperial Metals on August 16, 2019, where Newcrest will be the operators of the Red Chris mine, a potential ‘Tier One’ asset in British Columbia, Canada, the gold miner has said.

The analysts said: “We expect to see this trend of increased M&A activity to continue, particularly amongst the more mid-tier gold producers as they look to solidify their own positions in the industry. This will likely encompass mergers with peers to unlock shareholder value and the acquisition of assets that majors have determined to be non-core.

“This may help to progress some later stage projects into production that have been sitting on the shelf for a number of years, but we are not anticipating a knee jerk reaction to current prices. Smaller projects which have a short payback period, in a low sovereign risk jurisdiction, are an attractive proposition and we could see a number of these projects being fast tracked into production.”

And, going forward, to address the predicament of declining reserves, if prices remain elevated miners may be inclined to review their reserve and resource price assumptions, the analysts said.

Newcrest to apply ‘unique technical capabilities’ to copper-gold mine in BC, Canada

Newcrest Mining has entered into an agreement to acquire a 70% joint venture interest in Imperial Metals’ Red Chris copper-gold mine and surrounding tenements in British Columbia, Canada, for $806.5 million.

The deal will see Newcrest become Red Chris operator, in charge of deciding how to exploit the copper-gold porphyry open-pit mine.

Newcrest said the acquisition of Red Chris was “a measured entry” into North America and aligned with its stated strategic goals of building a global portfolio of Tier 1 orebodies where Newcrest can “deliver value through application of its unique operating capabilities”.

Red Chris comes with a mineral resource of 20 Moz of gold and 5.9 Mt of copper. The acquired property comprises 23,142 ha of land with 77 mineral tenures, five of which are mining leases, and sits within the traditional territory of the Tahltan Nation.

Newcrest Managing Director and CEO, Sandeep Biswas, said: “We are delighted to add this asset into the Newcrest portfolio. Following due diligence, we believe we can bring our unique technical capabilities to unlock the full value potential of this orebody in one of the premier gold districts in the world.

“We have identified a clear pathway to potentially turn this orebody into a Tier 1 operation. The geology of Red Chris is similar to our Cadia orebodies in Australia and we will be applying our considerable experience in exploration, open-pit mining, caving and processing to maximise the value of Red Chris and the opportunities in the surrounding region. We look at this opportunity in the same way as we do with Cadia, where we have proven we can create significant value from deep underground porphyry orebodies.”

Following the intensive due diligence process Biswas mentioned, Newcrest said it has a two-stage plan to deliver value from the acquisition:

Stage one will see the company apply its “Edge transformation approach” to the existing Red Chris open-pit mine and processing plant.

“Newcrest believes it can add significant value to Red Chris by applying the same Edge mind-set and approach that has led to significant operating improvements across all Newcrest operations over the last five years,” the company said.

Examples of where successful changes have been implemented to safely accelerate cash maximisation include process plant optimisation (debottlenecking, recovery uplifts, process control, improving concentrate quality), mine optimisation (improving orebody knowledge, grade control, fleet management system, mine planning) and supply chain cost reduction, according to Newcrest.

As part of this stage, Newcrest said it will initiate an extensional drilling programme.

“Newcrest intends to optimise the current open-pit mine plan and pursue initiatives to improve operational productivities and milling recoveries,” Newcrest said.

The current open-pit mine has an existing 11 Mt/y processing plant and associated infrastructure which allows ‘brownfield’ expansion options in the future, it added.

Stage 2 will see the company apply “industry leading technology”.

The company said: “Newcrest believes it can add significant shareholder value by applying technology to Red Chris that it has successfully applied at its other operations.”

Examples include block caving – “Newcrest believes the orebody has the potential to become a high margin bulk underground block cave. Newcrest will accelerate the necessary drilling and studies. Newcrest intends to conduct studies and review the ore reserve of the Red Chris operation to allow for reporting in accordance with JORC 2012 to take into account the potential transition to a future block cave operation.”

Coarse ore flotation could also be considered, the company said.

“Having demonstrated the recovery benefits of coarse ore flotation at Cadia, Newcrest will look to apply this technology to Red Chris,” Newcrest said.

And, then there is the application of one of the most popular technologies today: ore sensing and sorting, of which Newcrest said: “Positive results from trials underway at Telfer may lead to this technology being deployed at Red Chris.”

In terms of exploration, Newcrest said it would apply its experience in deep underground brownfield and greenfield exploration on the existing orebody and the broader land package to potential uncover more tonnes of copper and ounces of gold.

“Newcrest has identified opportunities to expand Red Chris’s mineral resources along strike and at depth in areas where there has been limited deep drilling to date. Historical shallow drilling indicates that there is also potential for further deep discoveries to be made in the larger tenement package.

“Newcrest will be targeting prospective regions beyond the current mine looking for further porphyry centres including small footprint, higher-grade gold-rich porphyry systems leveraging knowledge gained from Cadia which has similar geological features,” Newcrest said.

Red Chris, on the northern edge of the Skeena Mountains, commenced construction in 2012 and was completed in November 2014 for a total cost of C$661 million ($492 million). Commercial production commenced in July 2015 and, in the first nine month of 2018, the mine produced 20,320 t of copper and 29,569 oz of gold.