Guatemala , Panama , Nicaragua and Dominican Republic
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Miners pushing ahead with Central America gold growth plans

Bnamericas Published: Monday, September 21, 2020
Miners pushing ahead with Central America gold growth plans

Mining and exploration companies are planning major milestones at Central American gold projects in the coming months as they advance toward production following a surge in prices.

Gold passed the US$2,000/oz mark for the first time in August, and continues to trade north of US$1,900/oz, up from an average US$1,480/oz in December 2019.

The price has been pushed up by global uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and massive economic stimulus measures.

PROJECT MILESTONES

1. Pueblo Viejo Expansion, Dominican Republic

Barrick Gold is keeping the ball rolling at its US$1.3bn Pueblo Viejo Expansion project in the Dominican Republic.

The company has submitted an environmental impact assessment for the plant and placed orders for long lead-time items, CEO Mark Bristow told the Q2 earnings call.

Field work has also begun for the baseline environmental assessment for additional tailings capacity.

President Luis Abinader has indicated he plans to approve the expansion and overhaul regulations to make the country more attractive to mining investment.

The expansion will extend operations at Pueblo Viejo - Latin America's biggest gold mine - to beyond 2040, maintaining production at around 800,000oz/y after 2022.

2. Cerro Blanco, Guatemala

Bluestone Resources CEO Jack Lundin is planning to rapidly advance its Cerro Blanco gold project in Guatemala, with first production expected in 2022.

Development will be helped by existing infrastructure, including a water treatment plant and the south portal developed by former owners Goldcorp, which invested US$230mn in the project, Lundin told the Precious Metals Summit Beaver Creek conference.

A planned processing plant for the underground asset will be constructed within existing concessions.

“Right now we are at advanced study. We will be looking to kick off early works toward the end of the year and get ourselves into the development stage early next year, and we plan to be pouring gold by 2H22,” Lundin told the virtual event.

On the social side, the company is implementing a local procurement and training program, and engagement with communities has been positive, the CEO said.

Bluestone is also advancing an updated mine plan which will incorporate an additional 200,000oz gold in measured and indicated resources, which now total 1.41Moz gold at an average grade of 10.3g/t.

The previous mine plan, in a feasibility study, indicated production of 113,000oz/y gold over eight years, including 146,000oz/y in the first three years.

Capex is estimated at US$193mn.

3. Cerro Quema, Panama

Orla Mining expects its Cerro Quema oxide gold project in Panama to deliver the next increase in production after developing its Camino Rojo asset in Mexico.

“With a line of sight to cash flow at Camino Rojo, the inevitable question will become growth, and our answer is likely to be our oxide project in Panama,” CEO Jason Simpson told the Beaver Creek event.

“Although smaller, recoveries are excellent, resulting in the ability to increase our overall production by 80% at similar margins that we have achieved in Mexico.”

Exploration is focused on finding additional oxide resources to increase cash flow, while a maiden resource for a copper-gold sulphide discovery is planned by early next year.

Cerro Quema is expected to produce about 80,000oz/y gold over 5.5 years for initial capex of US$113mn, with cash costs estimated at US$402/oz gold.

The project IRR is 48.6% at US$1,550/oz gold.

4. Pavon, Borosi projects, Nicaragua

Calibre Mining is advancing plans to utilize spare mill capacity at its La Libertad mine in Nicaragua by hauling material from deposits around 250km away.

At the Pavon project, about 300kmn from La Libertad, the company has advanced an environmental permit application and was recently awarded an open pit permit for Pavon Norte, which is expected to commence operations in 1Q21, VP, corporate development and investor relations Ryan King said at the Beaver Creek event.

Calibre has also acquired the remaining 70% interest in the Eastern Borosi projects, with inferred resources containing about 700,000oz gold, and is advancing an exploration partnership with Rio Tinto on the Borosi concessions.

“With low-cost US$25/t haulage costs there is a tremendous opportunity to utilize the paid for infrastructure we have in-country and be able to draw on satellite deposits,” King told the event.

“We have been able to work through with communities in order to permit and work toward extraction.”

5. San Albino, Nicaragua

Mako Mining plans to begin production within months at its San Albino project in Nicaragua, while advancing exploration at the nearby Las Conchitas discovery, according to CEO Akibo Leisman.

The plant is about 85% complete, with a dry-stack tailings facility around 50-55% built, Leisman told the conference.

“This plant and tailings [facility] will be commissioned by end-2020 such that we would have first gold pour in January and commercial production after a short three-month ramp up period, so some time in early 2Q21,” the CEO said.

Mako also plans to complete 75,000m of drilling at Las Conchitas, which is about 2km to the south of San Albino, with the aim of developing a mineable resource.

Ore from Las Conchitas will be processed at the San Albino facility, which is expected to double throughput to 1,000t/d by late 2022, Leisman added.

Mako is also advancing exploration across its Nicaraguan land package, and expects to be mining at 1,000t/d for decades if drilling is successful, he said.

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