Gold mine decisions anticipated

Oceanagold chief operating officer Michael Holmes speaking at Diggers & Dealers Forum in Kalgoorlie yesterday. Photo supplied.
Oceanagold chief operating officer Michael Holmes speaking at Diggers & Dealers Forum in Kalgoorlie yesterday. Photo supplied.
The future of Oceana Gold's South Island operations remains under scrutiny with the possibility decisions on the future of New Zealand sites might be known by the end of the year.

While there remains an estimated more than 8 million South Island ounces, between the Macraes operations in East Otago and Reefton on the West Coast, the gold price is still depressed and costs to produce the New Zealand gold are high.

At the annual miners' Diggers & Dealers Forum in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, this week, Oceana's chief operating officer Michael Holmes said the future of New Zealand operations should be made more clear by the end of the year, along with the scope to progress future developments in New Zealand.

For 2015, there is a proposal to mothball the Reefton open pit which had employed about 260 staff, also the mine life of Frasers underground at Macraes ends in the middle of 2015.

The Macraes open pit mine-life is set for the end of 2017.

Since September, Oceana has laid off about 270 staff and contractors; including 160 at Macraes and about 110 at Reefton, including the latest being 51 at the Globe Progress site in Reefton at the weekend.

Mr Holmes said with an untapped resource of 8 million ounces at the New Zealand operations, the best endeavours would be undertaken to harness this, nz.resources.com reported from Kalgoorlie.

When contacted yesterday, an Oceana spokeswoman said the company would continue to explore these ''future opportunities'', through several studies which were due for completion during the third quarter of 2014.

Mr Holmes said those efforts included the blueprint for reopening the historic high grade Blackwater mine at Waiuta in the Reefton goldfield.

Also, there was an evaluation to tap undeveloped higher grade gold and also tungsten at Round Hill, the first open cut mine at Macraes, as well as deeper high grade ore on the eastern side of other filled-in pits around Macraes.

For the latter project, it was understood to involve the multimillion-dollar cost of moving the Macraes processing plant.

Mining of the Coronation Pit at Macraes was expected to start at the end of the year.

Mr Holmes was asked whether Oceana was looking at both Blackwater and the Round Hill projects as being the next wave of projects in New Zealand to maintain the workforce.

Oceana was looking to use skilled New Zealand workers to assist with the next stage of mining at the Didipio gold-copper mine in the Philippines, making a start towards underground mining.

He said this was likely sooner, as Didipio transformed Oceana from being a marginal Australasian gold miner, following the gold price slide, to perhaps the most cash positive operator.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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