Newmont to decide on $2 billion Peru project by year-end

Yanacocha mine, in northern Peru’s Cajamarca region (Image courtesy of Newmont.)

Newmont (NYSE: NEM) (TSX: NGT), the world’s no. 1 gold miner, will make a decision on a $2 billion investment at its Yanacocha mine, in northern Peru’s Cajamarca region, before the end of the year, CEO Tom Palmer told investors.

In a call to discuss the company’s second quarter earnings, Palmer said the Yanacocha Sulfides project, as it’s known, would allow operations to continue at the massive gold mine.

Newmont plans to develop the first phase of sulfide deposits and an integrated processing circuit, including an autoclave to process gold, copper and silver feedstock.

Construction will take around two and a half years, so the project should start operating in 2026, the company said.

“We’ve been in Peru for 30 years. The Yanacocha Sulphides project will position us to be in Peru for at least another 30 or 40 years”

Tom Palmer, Newmont CEO

It would add 500,000 gold equivalent ounces per year to the mine production with all-in sustaining costs between $700 to $800 per ounce for the first five full years of operations.

As the oxide resources of the open pit Yanacocha mine are close to being depleted, the project is designed to continue mining sulfide material underground.

The first phase focuses on developing the Yanacocha Verde and Chaquicocha deposits to extend operations beyond 2040. The second and third phases, Palmer said, have the potential to extend the mine life for “multiple decades.”

Newmont says Yanacocha Sulfides is one of the most important mining projects planned in Peru for the next five years.

All the new infrastructure will be built within the existing mine’s footprint and the project will incorporate remote technology to conduct real-time inspections.

Optimistic outlook

Asked about the incoming government of leftist Pedro Castillo, Palmer said the company was ready to engage in discussions over the next six months, adding he was optimistic about the outcome.

“We’ve been in Peru for 30 years. The Yanacocha Sulphides project will position us to be in Peru for at least another 30 or 40 years,” he said.

The Denver, Colorado-based miner says the gold mine has provided over $1b billion in environmental and social responsibility projects since it started operations in the 1990s.

About two-thirds of Yanacocha’s revenue is ploughed back into the local economy in wages, taxes, goods and services, as the operation employs 1,400 workers directly and supports a further 40,000 Peruvian jobs. Two-thirds of workers at the mine are residents of Cajamarca.

“We see Yanacocha as a cornerstone asset in a key district that we want to be in for a very long time,” Palmer told investors, adding that the company is open to opportunities to consolidate its position in the district.

Peru experienced one of its worst political crises in its history in November last year, witnessing three heads of state in a week after a battle between the presidency and Congress, along with violent protests that left two people dead.

During a tense and polarizing election process, the rural union activist from a Marxist party vowed to nationalize energy assets, block certain projects and take a bigger share of the mineral windfall to fight poverty.

Castillo’s rising popularity surprised investors and fuelled concern that a more onerous operating environment would jeopardize projects needed to meet increasing global demand for copper.