Newcrest lowers costs

NEWCREST Mining has reported an expected dip in gold production for the September quarter, but expects output to increase over the rest of the financial year.
Newcrest lowers costs Newcrest lowers costs Newcrest lowers costs Newcrest lowers costs Newcrest lowers costs

The plant at Cadia

Quarterly gold production was 548,000 ounces of gold, up 5% on the same quarter of last year, but down 14% on June's strong performance due to planned maintenance at Lihir and unplanned shutdowns at Telfer and Gosowong.

This was lower than UBS and RBC Capital Markets' forecasts of 619,000oz and 584,300oz respectively.

Where the company did beat was on all-in sustaining costs of US$778 an ounce, which were $120 lower year-on-year and $17 lower quarter-on-quarter.

RBC had forecast AISC of $865/oz, while the result was just above UBS' estimate of $767/oz.

Group AISC margin was $441/oz, up $35 year-on-year, but down $66/oz quarter-on-quarter due to a lower gold price.

Copper production jumped by 24% quarter-on-quarter to 25,000 tonnes.

Newcrest was particularly pleased with the performance at Cadia in New South Wales, where mill throughput rose by 30% to 28.1 million tonnes per annum.

The company is studying an expansion to 33Mtpa.

Cadia produced 213,514oz of gold and 21,055t of copper at AISC of $143/oz.

"During our first quarter of FY19 Cadia's operating and financial performance continued to improve, with higher production and a lower AISC per ounce, both year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter," Newcrest managing director and CEO Sandeep Biswas said.

"Gold production for the group was higher than the corresponding first quarter of FY18 but was lower than the prior quarter, as expected given the number of planned major plant shutdowns during the period.

"Pleasingly, we had a lower AISC per ounce for the quarter compared to both the prior year period as well as the prior quarter.

"We expect gold production to increase over the remainder of the financial year."

FY19 guidance remains unchanged at 2.35-2.6 million ounces of gold and 100,000-110,000t of copper.

On growth, Newcrest is aiming to complete the permitting for its 50%-owned Wafi-Golpu project in Papua New Guinea by June 2019.

The company continued brownfields exploration at Telfer, Gosowong and Cadia, and was active across the globe in greenfields exploration.

Newcrest drilled the Jarbidge project in Nevada and is awaiting assays, and is set to shortly begin drilling at the Rattlesnake Hills project in Wyoming under a new farm-in with GFG Resources.

The company completed field work in Chile and Argentina under farm-ins with Mirasol Resources and Rio de Oro respectively, and carried out reconnaissance work in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada and the US.

Closer to home, work continued in PNG, Indonesia and the Mt Isa, Tanami and north-east Queensland in Australia.

A strategic review over the Seguela project in Cote d'Ivoire is underway for completion by the end of March.

Newcrest also announced yesterday it had signed a collaboration agreement with global IT services, consulting and business solutions firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to create an innovation and digital operations centre (IDOC) in India.

Biswas said it was part of Newcrest's commitment to being a leader in technology and innovation.

"We are always seeking out new ways to improve our operations," he said.

"The IDOC will extensively leverage TCS's global research and innovation networks to explore opportunities to improve activities across our business including ore processing, techniques for predictive targeting, and leveraging learning from other industries.

"We want to enhance and accelerate the way we use automation and artificial intelligence across our business to improve our returns to shareholders."

Newcrest will work with TCS experts in engineering, research and development, data analytics and IoT, and process control.

"TCS will help us to fast track our transformation towards our 2020 aspirations," Biswas said.

Shares in Newcrest rose by 1.5% to A$21.01, its highest price since August. Newcrest will hold its biennial investor day in Sydney on Friday.