Gold Fields begins operations in Atacama, Chile

Scarlet Ibarra / April 3, 2024 | 12:01
Salares Norte successfully produced its first doré metal, positioning Atacama and Chile as one of the main producers of this metal in the region.

Gold Fields has achieved a significant milestone in northern Chile with the production of the first doré metal (gold-silver) at its Salares Norte mine, located in the Atacama region.

The mine's startup to achieve operational stability is progressing, with an equivalent gold production of 250,000 ounces. The company has indicated that the average equivalent gold production during the first five years of the mine's life (2025 – 2029) is expected to be 485,000 ounces annually.

The total project cost amounts to US$1.190 billion, of which US$395 million were spent in 2023. This figure exceeded initial projections due to the delayed startup, an increase in the number of on-site contractors, and a rise in their rates.

Mike Fraser, CEO of Gold Fields, highlights that "the construction of Salares Norte is a testament to the innovation, experience, commitment, and persistence of the teams working on the project. Building a mine at 4,500 meters above sea level, amidst harsh winters and temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius, in the midst of a global pandemic, is an incredible feat."

"This is a world-class project with one of the lowest cost profiles in the industry and a payback period of less than three years at spot prices," Fraser adds. "It represents significant growth and value enhancement for our portfolio and significantly contributes to Gold Fields' cash flow for the coming years."

Construction of the project began in March 2021 and was delayed due to the impact of the pandemic, combined with complex geographical and weather conditions. Additionally, labor availability and delays in pre-commissioning and commissioning resulted in a delay beyond December 2023.

With this operation, Chile's gold production will increase by 40%, positioning it among the top gold producers in South America.

It is worth noting that Salares Norte is the first greenfield project in the country in over a decade. Additionally, it will generate 900 jobs during the operational stage and contribute more than US$800 million in direct and indirect taxes over its 11-year lifespan. It is also noteworthy that 26% of the company's employees are women, doubling the average for the Chilean mining industry.

Furthermore, the company is investing approximately US$30 million annually in exploration surrounding the mine and is confident that these efforts will significantly extend the lifespan of Salares Norte in the near future.

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