Equinox begins $103m in construction at Brazil gold mine

Santa Luz is a previously operating open-pit mine and processing plant that commenced production mid-2013 but was shut down in 2014 by a previous owner to focus on optimizing gold recoveries. Credit: Equinox Gold Corp.

Canadian gold producer Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX) is set to begin full construction of its wholly-owned Santa Luz gold mine in Bahia state, Brazil, with an approved construction budget of $103 million.

Santa Luz is expected to produce 903,000 ounces of gold and generate $436 million in after-tax net cash flow over an initial 9.5-year mine life from 1.1 million ounces of open-pit gold reserves, with additional upside from underground resources, the miner said.

Using a base case gold price of $1,500/oz, the project has an after-tax net present value (NPV) discounted at 5% of $305 million with an internal rate of return (IRR) of 58%.

As a brownfields past-producing mine, the majority of site services and infrastructure at Santa Luz are already in place

“We continue to deliver on our sector-leading growth by launching into full construction at Santa Luz, after pouring first gold at our Castle Mountain mine less than a month ago and first gold at our Aurizona mine only 15 months ago,” Equinox CEO Christian Milau said in a press release.

“With initial capital of only $103 million, Santa Luz is fully funded and will start contributing significant cash flow to the company in just over one year’s time,” Milau added.

As a brownfields past-producing mine, the majority of site services and infrastructure at Santa Luz are already in place. The initial capital costs to restart the mine include refurbishing existing infrastructure, retrofitting the plant, installing additional grinding power, and increasing the storage capacities of the existing tailings and water storage facilities.

Open-pit stripping is expected to begin in February 2021. Modifications and upgrades to the processing plant and tailings and water storage facilities are expected to be finished by the end of 2021, with first gold pour targeted for Q1 2022.

Meanwhile, Equinox has also resumed exploration in the highly prospective Santa Luz-Fazenda district, a 70 km long greenstone belt that extends between the company’s two mines in Bahia state.

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