Newcrest earns 40% interest in Havieron

Australia’s largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining (ASX: NCM) confirmed Wednesday that it has now reached its Stage 2 farm-in milestone at the Havieron project.

Newcrest has earned a 40% interest in the project and gave notice to Greatland Gold that it is proceeding to Stage 3.

The Havieron Project is operated by Newcrest under a farm-in agreement with Greatland Gold. It is centred on a deep magnetic anomaly located 45km east of Telfer in the Paterson Province, Western Australia. The target is overlain by more than 420m of post-mineral cover.

Newcrest started drilling during the June 2019 quarter and has increased drilling activity such that eight drill rigs are now operational

Newcrest started drilling during the June 2019 quarter and has increased drilling activity such that eight drill rigs are now operational.  

Drilling at the Havieron Project continues to expand and demonstrate the continuity of high-grade mineralisation which extends over 450m, to vertical depths of 600m and remains open at depth to the northwest.

Drilling has also identified mineralised breccias proximal to high-grade mineralisation, Newcrest said. A further 20,000m are planned to be drilled to support the objective of delivering a maiden resource estimate in the second half of 2020.

Studies are also underway to investigate the potential for starting an exploration decline by the end of calendar year or early 2021 and achieving commercial production within two to three years from the commencement of the decline.

Newcrest said it has implemented measures to reduce and mitigate the risks of the covid-19 pandemic to its project workforce and key stakeholders.

 “Today’s announcement highlights the significant investment we are making into this project,” Newcrest CEO Sandeep Biswas said in a media release. “The results to date have been very positive and I believe that Havieron provides a great opportunity to improve the economics and extend the operating life of Telfer.”

Ero Copper’s Brazil operations not impacted by pandemic

Ero Copper (TSX: ERO) has not experienced any disruption to its operations, supply chains or sales channels as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, the Brazil-focused base metals miner stated in a corporate update on Tuesday.

To date, there are no known cases of covid-19 at any of the company’s operations, neighboring communities, or at its corporate offices in São Paulo and Vancouver, it added.

Ero Copper is currently focused on developing the Vale do Curaçá property in Bahia, Brazil, where it mines copper ore from the Pilar and Vermelhos underground mines. Operations are continuing at planned production rates and below-budget costs during the first quarter, aided by the depreciation of the Brazilian real.

Accordingly, the company is maintaining its full-year production, capital and operating cost guidance for 2020, but warns that the situation related to the covid-19 pandemic remains dynamic.

Shares of Ero Copper closed 2.4% higher on the TSX on Tuesday. The company’s market capitalization is C$906.45 million.

Polymetal signs offtake deal with Australia’s Blackham

Precious metals mining major Polymetal announced Tuesday it has signed a refractory gold concentrate offtake agreement and strategic alliance with Australian gold miner Blackham Resources.

The companies entered into the offtake agreement for the greater of 70% of refractory sulphide gold concentrate from Blackham’s Wiluna Stage 1 expansion project during its first three years of operation, or 122,500 tonnes of concentrate containing at least 195,000 ounces of gold.

The Wiluna deposit is located close to the town of Wiluna, approximately 750 km northeast of Perth.

Wiluna ores are either oxide, refractory sulphide or quartz reef free-milling ores, with most gold occurring within fine-grained sulphides. Currently the only operating CIL plant is treating oxide ores from both Wiluna and other nearby mining centres.

Blackham is implementing the expansion project in two stages to unlock the value of refractory ores. Stage 1 assumes 110,000 ounces of average annual gold production from sulphide ores during 2021-2027, followed by Stage 2 of expansion, which will see an increase of annual production to 250,000 ounces of gold for more than 10 years.

Upon expiration of the initial three-year period of Stage 1 and during Stage 2 of the Wiluna expansion project, Polymetal will obtain exclusive offtake rights for up to 100% of Blackham’s concentrate production.

Polymetal said the alliance will establish a process of two-way technical data sharing in respect of the potential expansion of Wiluna concentrate production and certain regional projects. Its long-term goal is to reduce the global environmental footprint of refractory sulphide gold ores and concentrates processing.

Resolute completes Ravenswood mine sale

Australia’s Resolute Mining (ASX, LSE: RSG) has completed the sale of its Ravenswood gold mine in Queensland to a consortium comprising private equity management firm EMR Capital and Singapore-listed mining company Golden Energy and Resources (GEAR).

In January, the parties entered a definitive agreement under which Resolute will sell the Ravenswood mine for up to A$300 million. The sale was completed in accordance with the terms and timeline outlined in the agreement.

Resolute has received A$100 million of upfront proceeds consisting of A$50 million in cash and A$50 million in promissory notes. The company is entitled to further notes that could be worth up to A$200 million, contingent on gold prices and the future growth of Ravenswood.

Up to A$50 million of the additional consideration will be linked to the average gold price over a four-year period, and up to A$150 million will be linked to the investment outcomes for EMR.

“Ravenswood has been a strong performer for Resolute for more than 15 years. During this time Resolute has mined and processed over 40 million tonnes of ore and produced over two million ounces of gold,” Resolute managing director and CEO John Welborn stated in a media release. He added that sale of Ravenswood would enable the company to focus its attention on its African portfolio and other opportunities.

With the Ravenswood sale now completed, Resolute has upgraded its production guidance for 2020 to 430,000 ounces at an all-in sustaining cost of $980/oz.

Petra Diamonds founder steps down

Founder Adonis Pouroulis. (Image courtesy of Petra Diamonds | Twitter.)

South Africa’s Petra Diamonds (LON:PDL) is waving goodbye to Adonis Pouroulis, the company’s founder and chairman for the last 23 years.

The diamond producer, which dropped the role of chief operating officer in November because of a management restructuring, said Pouroulis is being succeeded by Peter Hill, who was appointed a non-executive director of Petra and chairman-designate in December.

Hill began his career in the gold division of Anglo American, moving later to Rossing Uranium in Namibia, then to London as mining engineer with the then BP Minerals, and finally joining Consolidated Gold Fields.

Adonis Pouroulis, Petra’s founder and chairman for the last 23 years, has been succeeded by Peter Hill.

Petra has been seeking to turn around its fortunes after piling up debt to expand its iconic Cullinan mine, in South Africa, where the world’s largest-ever diamond was found in 1905.

In September, it reported a 22% drop in annual profit amid falling diamond prices and the company’s investment in Cullinan aimed at reviving the aging operation. The company’s share price collapsed to a record low as it also revealed it was writing down the value of its mines

Just when the first signs of stabilization in the sector are starting to appear, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced Petra to halt its production outlook for 2020.

The company closed its mines in South Africa last week for a mandatory 21-day lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of covid-19.

Its remote Williamson diamond mine, in Tanzania, said Petra, continues to be “closely monitored”.

Mining Association applauds 75% wage subsidy announced by Canadian government

The Mining Association of Canada issued a statement praising the federal government’s decision to include businesses of all sizes in its wage subsidy, a component of a package of reforms designed to help businesses keep workers employed as the economy transitions through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the employer of 626,000 individuals across Canada, accounting for one in every 30 jobs across the country, the newly announced wage subsidy will play a significant role in providing much-needed support to Canada’s mining industry,” the communiqué reads.

“The support being offered through this new program will enable mining companies to retain their workforces in the face of significant economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic” – MAC’s CEO

According to the MAC, as is the case with many sectors, mining has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, with multiple companies reducing or suspending operations at mines, smelters and refineries across the country, which has resulted in hundreds of layoffs of direct and indirect employees.

“The wage subsidy will help prevent further layoffs, thus minimizing both the scale and extent of disruption to both businesses, employees and contractors and better position the mining sector to resume operations and support the many thousands of individuals who depend on it for employment,” the president of the industry group,  Pierre Gratton, said in the brief.

The wage subsidy will see 75% of an employee’s salary up to $58,700 temporarily covered by the government to prevent layoffs and the disruption to both businesses and employees associated with such actions. 

The benefit will be backdated to March 15, 2020, and businesses and nonprofit organizations seeing a drop of at least 30% in revenue due to COVID-19 will be eligible for the program. 

Premier offers Centerra $205m for contentious Ontario project

Premier Gold Mines (TSX: PG) made an offer to Centerra Gold (TSX: CG) to acquire the remaining 50% interest in the Greenstone Gold Mines Partnership for a total consideration of $205 million.

The offer consists of a $175-million cash payment and the assumption of all Centerra’s obligations under the partnership agreement, including the remaining earn-in obligation of approximately $30 million.

It is estimated that the open-pit gold mine could provide nearly 1,000 jobs during construction and pre-production, and 450 workers would be employed full-time during Hardrock’s 15-year mine life span

In a press release, Premier said the acquiring party will be another company that is an assignee of its rights under the offer letter. The proposed assignee has the financial capacity to both acquire Centerra’s 50% interest and advance the Hardrock mine project through construction. It also intends to work with Premier to assist in securing the financial resources required for Premier to fund its 50% share of related mine construction costs.

Hardrock is the Greenstone Gold Mines Partnership’s principal asset and it is located on the Trans-Canada Highway near Geraldton, Ontario. 

According to the miners involved in the transaction, Hardrock is one of the most significant large-scale, near permitted, mine development projects in North America.

“This offer should be viewed favourably by Centerra as we believe that it represents a substantial premium to the median of current analyst consensus valuations attributed to Centerra’s 50% interest in GGM, full recovery of their total investment in GGM to date, and aligns with Centerra’s stated focus of maximizing the value of its existing operating assets over new-build opportunities,” Ewan Downie, Premier’s president and CEO, said in the media brief. “The value of the offer is in excess of Premier’s market capitalization, especially when you consider the company’s considerable cash position.”

Hardrock has been a contentious project for both Premier and Centerra, with the latter filing a lawsuit over a project update made in December by Greenstone Gold Mines which Centerra argues should not be considered a “Feasibility Study,” and Premier filing a counterclaim in response. 

Harmony Gold curbs output as it shuts nine underground mines

South Africa’s Harmony Gold (JSE: HAR) (NYSE: HMY) has temporarily shutter the nine underground mines it has in the home country to comply with the 21-day lockdown imposed by the government in the wake of the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The company, however, is keeping Kalgold open-pit mine in the North West Province in operations as well as Surface treatment plants and retreatment operations.

Harmony’s Hidden Valley gold mine in Papua New Guinea also remains open, but subject to any directive issued in line with the south-western Pacific country’s pandemic response.

As a result of the measures, the Randfontein-based miner expects to only produce between 650kg to 700kg of gold in South Africa during the lockdown.

With governments from Africa to Latin America issuing lockdown orders, disruptions to operations and supply chains are affecting the outlook for industrial and precious metals

Work is grinding to a halt and operations at mines are being temporarily suspended as companies move to enact measures to protect against the spread of covid-19.

South Africa accounts for 75% of the world’s platinum and 38% of palladium supply, and also produces minerals from gold and manganese to chrome and iron ore.