Gold costs expected to fall along with production

WHILE it might be too hard to determine production impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, consultancy Metals Focus believes costs will drop and margins will rise this year.
Gold costs expected to fall along with production Gold costs expected to fall along with production Gold costs expected to fall along with production Gold costs expected to fall along with production Gold costs expected to fall along with production

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A number of gold mines have already been suspended or production slowed in South Africa, South America and Canada due to lockdown policies to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Newmont, AngloGold Ashanti, Northern Star Resources, Agnico Eagle Mines and Yamana Gold are among the producers to withdraw full-year guidance.

Metals Focus noted Australia, the US and Russia seemed to be producing at normal rates, but the situation continued to rapidly evolve.

"Quantifying the impact on global mine supply at this stage is therefore extremely challenging," it said

"At present, we expect 2020 gold production to be significantly impacted and lower than the 3541t we were forecasting at the start of the year."

However, even though prices have fallen from the peak of US$1700 an ounce, the current price of about $1586/oz is well above 2019's average of $1393/oz.

Metals Focus said average all-in sustaining margins rose by 24% last year to $458/oz due to the 10% rise in the gold price.

"These higher margins eased capital and operating cost constraints and allowed for commercially viable treatment of lower grade material," it said.

"This, alongside inflation, offset the strong US dollar and resulted in a 4% year-on-year increase in AISC which averaged $936/oz in 2019."

Metals Focus expects AISC for primary gold miners to drop to $907/oz this year as cost discipline comes back into focus.

"These efforts will be helped by the strong US dollar while further downward pressure on costs will come from the recent fall in oil prices feeding through to diesel costs," it said.

However, disruptions will negatively impact costs.

"Mines that are temporarily closed will incur higher costs while ramping up/down and lower base metal prices will lead to a reduction in by-product credits for gold mines producing these metals," Metals Focus said.

"Rising year-on-year gold prices may also incentivise higher cost production to come online and miners to increase capital expenditure pushing AISC up."

Longer-term, gold production could also be impacted by disruptions to development projects and a lack of funding for juniors.

Metals Focus previously expected projects at the study for development stage to contribute 9.2% of global supply next year.