South African miner Gold Fields said on Wednesday it had received environmental approval for its Salares Norte project, in Chile’s Atacama region.
While the company has yet to make an investment decision on the project, it said the permit was a crucial step forward.
“The company will now formulate a funding plan, update the feasibility study completed earlier this year and proceed to a construction decision during the first half of 2020,” chief executive Nick Holland said in the statement.
Discovered in 2011, Salares Norte is one of five gold projects set to begin operations in the South American nation over the next three years.
The asset hosts 5.2 million ounces of gold, 39.2 million ounces of silver and 695 million pounds of copper.
Construction is estimated to cost $834 million and generate 2,700 jobs up to the end of 2022, assuming it gets the board’s approval. About 900 workers would be employed when the mine is operational, Gold Fields said.
Once up and running, Salares Norte would generate 450,000 gold ounces a year over a 12-year mine life.
Holland said last month that possible partners could get 20-30% of the project, with Gold Fields retaining a majority stake.
Chile’s gold production peaked in 2000 at 54.1 tonnes, data from the country’s copper commission, Cochilco, shows. The nation, the No.1 copper producer and second largest lithium producer after Australia, currently ranks 16th among the world’s top gold producing nations, according to IndexMundi.com,
Other gold projects set to come online in Chile by 2023 are Kinross Gold’s La Coipa Restart, Yamana Gold’s El Peñón expansion, Canada’s Rio2’ Fenix and Australia’s Kingsgate Consolidated’s Nueva Esperanza.