The weather is an important factor in the mining industry. As much as rain is important for pretty much everything, it affects mining production in a bad way. The weather in Western Australia and Queensland where most of Australia’s gold mining operations are found. According to the latest reports, Australia has managed to produce 74 tonnes of gold in the first quarter. That’s a 7% decrease from the amount produced around the final quarter of 2017.
According to experts, the figures are better than what was anticipated considering the amount of rain that came down in the first quarter of the year. The figure is actually 4% more than what was reported for the first quarter of the previous year. However the wet weather affected production at various mines. Wet weather cause haulage problems and forces operators to use low-grade gold stockpiles just to maintain the mill throughput. In addition to that, wet ore tends to be sticky and when it is, it becomes harder to crush and affects conveyor belts and other equipment designed to deal with mining ore when it is dry. Production plants either run slower or they shut down in parts and stockpile the ore to be run through when the conditions are more favourable. Heavy rains also affect the supply of essential services and consumables like diesel to mines located in remote areas of Australia.
Looking at individual operators: the Tropicana Joint Venture by AngloGold and Independence Group produced 34,000 ounces less gold than the previous quarter; Barrick and Newmont’s Super Pit produced 28,000 ounces less gold; Newcrest and Telfer’s operation production was down 33,000 ounces whilst Newmont’s Boddington and Tanami operation fell by 30,000 ounces. The Tanami desert area needs as much rain as it can get, however the rainfall early this year was particularly high, it caused sustained flooding in most areas. Because of this, diesel, which is Tanami mines’ primary fuel could not be trucked to the mine. As a result production fell by 30,000 ounces. Only a small number of mining operations reported a higher output, these include AngloGold’s Sunrise Dam Mine BHP, Silver Lake’s Olympic Dam operation and Mt Monger mining operation. These mining operations produced more gold than expected under the circumstances of wet weather.
Weather isn’t the only thing creating difficulties for the mining industry. There is talk that the Australian government is contemplating increasing the royalties of gold mined in Western Australia. This would be a disaster for the mining industry. Although the sector works hard to keep costs low, some gold producers have been unable to control costs and have All In Sustaining Costs (AISCs) that are above the gold price. Imposing a higher royalty would be a peculiar way for the government to retain jobs in an industry that is already struggling. It will also reduce the earnings that the government will make with gold exports. The situation is still being closely monitored and mining companies will soon meet with government to discuss the royalties and the taxes that they are already paying especially at this crucial point in time when the industry isn’t doing as good as it.