Peak Gold anyone?
Australia’s 2008 gold output may fall to lowest level since ’89
By: Creamer Media Reporter
Published on 24th November 2008
Australia’s gold production increased by 3% to 56 tons in the September quarter, compared with
lowest quarterly output recorded by the country in the past 20 years,
mining consultant Surbiton Associates reported on Monday.
The consultant on Monday released its latest Gold Quarterly Review,
indicating that gold production was down 9% year-on-year.
"It looks as though Australia’s gold production for the full 2008
year will be the lowest since 1989. It will be somewhere between 25%
and 30% lower than the peak year of 1997," said Surbiton Associates
director Dr Sandra Close.
However, despite the lower output, the value of the gold produced had
increased, said Surbiton, with the Australian dollar gold price
recently achieving record levels.
The average Australian dollar gold price for the September quarter
was about A$1 000/oz, said the consultant.
"In early October, Australian gold prices rose to an all time record
of just over A$1 400/oz during intraday trading. This was due to a
combination of a high US dollar gold price and a rapidly declining
Australian dollar exchange rate," said Close.
She noted that the year to date had seen excellent results from some
producers, but that several of the companies, which had sought to
redevelop older operations, had found the going tough and some had
"The low cost producers are making excellent profits but those at the
high end of the cost curve are battling. Some of the miners and also
some of the explorers with limited cash resources are vulnerable,"
She reported that two gold producers, GBS Gold Australia and Mercator
Gold, had gone into voluntary administration, while the operations
they were redeveloping had been put on care-and-maintenance and could
be sold to pay creditors.
However, Close stated that there was a positive side.
"Avoca Resources’ new operation at Higginsville, near Coolgardie,
poured its first gold in early July and produced almost 22 000 oz in
the September quarter as it builds up to full output," she noted.
Further, St Barbara poured the first gold from its redeveloped Gwalia
operation near Leonora, in Western Australia, in October.
Apex Minerals planned to pour the first gold from its upgraded Wiluna
plant this month and Lihir Gold expected to increase output
significantly by the end of the year at Ballarat East. Oz Minerals’
new Prominent Hill copper/gold mine in South Australia was also being
Close said that the growing effect of the financial downturn on
mineral exploration in general, including gold exploration, was of
"Where would Australia’s balance of trade be without our mineral and
resources exports? Now is the time for the state and federal
governments to re-examine the whole question of how best to encourage
and support mineral exploration," she commented.
She stated that exploration was essential to ensure the long-term
future of the minerals industry as a whole, adding that gold was a
particularly attractive target under the present circumstances.
"Commodities such as iron-ore, base metals and coal are dependant on
industrial demand but gold can always be sold. Gold projects can be
developed relatively quickly and as gold is a high-value, low-volume
product, it does not require expensive transport and port
facilities," she concluded.