South America Gold Mining Profiles

Argentina

Argentina produced an estimated 38,355 kg of gold in 2003 compared to 32,530 kg in 2002. The increase was attributable to several new projects that came on stream over the past two years.
The Bajo de la Alumbrera copper – gold mining operation is located approximately 1100 km north of Buenos Aires, Catmarca province and is considered as one of Argentina’s largest gold and copper mining operations. It is also ranked as one of the world’s largest porphyry orebodies. Production began in 1998 and contains remaining proven and probable reserves of some 385 Mt of ore grading at an average of 0.54% copper and 0.65 g/t gold (June 2001). The operation is operated by Minera Alumbrera Ltd (MAA) that comprises a consortium of foreign investors consisting of MIM Holdings (50%), BHP Billiton (25%) and Rio Tinto (25%). At current production rates, Alumbrera has a life of at least 17 years. Alumbrera is anticipated to produce 590 000 oz gold in concentrate and 180 000t copper in concentrate per year, making it one of the largest gold producers in South America..
The massive Pascua – Lama – Veladero gold deposits straddle the Chile – Argentina border, and is to be developed by Barrick. The Pascua – Lama deposit has proven and probable reserves of 262 Mt containing 14 Moz gold and 440 Moz silver. Production is anticipated to begin later on in 2004, with an annual production of 1 Moz gold and over 50 Moz silver per year. Development of the orebody has occurred from both the Chilean (Pascua) and Argentinean (Lama) sides by Barrick’s subsidiaries, Compania Minera Nevada Sa and Exploraciones Mineras Argentina SA respectively. 1998 saw a 1km tunnel being developed across the two country’s borders. According to Barrick, Pascua is set to become South America’s largest gold and silver mine.
The Cerro Vanguardia epithermal gold and silver deposit situated in Santa Cruz was developed by Anglo American Corp of Argentina (92.75%) and the Santa Cruz provincial company Fomicruz (7.5%). Full production began in 1999, with the mine producing 294 000 oz gold and 2.1 Moz silver in 2001. The mine has proven reserves estimated at 4 Mt grading at 8.7 g/t gold for 1.1 Moz gold.
Meridian Gold have merged with Brancote Holdings Plc that are focusing their efforts on the 76% owned Esquel Project located in Southern Argentina. Esquel is a high grade gold deposit with resources totalling 3.8 Moz gold and 7 Moz silver. Following the completion of a pre – feasibility study in late 2001, Esquel can expect to produce in the region of 500 000 oz gold over a 10 year lifespan. Capital costs are estimated at $131 million with production beginning in 2004.
Production at Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp’s Martha Mine located in Santa Cruz Province in southern Argentina began in early 2001. This high grade silver – gold underground mine is expected to produce 3.2 Moz silver in its first year of operation. Still with silver, Canadian Silver Standard Resources are actively pursuing several high grade silver projects in Argentina. Pacific Rim Mining have sold the Diablillos silver gold prospect to Silver Standard – and according to previous studies, Diablillos has an inferred resource of 94 Moz of silver and 800 000 oz gold. Silver Standard is also evaluating the Manatial Espejo deposit located in Santa Cruz Province, southern Argentina.


Bolivia

Bolivia’s gold production has been steadily rising since 1998. Gold production in the first 6 months of 2003 was estimated at 4 600 t a 18.6% increase from 2002. Production is still dominated by the Into Raymi gold mine that is responsible for over 75% of Bolivia’s production. The mine is situated at Kori Kollo on the Altiplano north of Oruro with Newmont Mining owning 88% and Zeland Mines SA (12%) of the project. The mine began production in 1993 and produced 306 000 oz gold in 2001. However, reserves at the mine are rapidly being exhausted and are currently estimated at 700 000 oz.
Through local subsidiary, Empresa Minera Paititi, Orvana Minerals has purchased a gold mining concession and related equipment from Comsur. The Don Mario gold deposit is located in eastern Bolivia and has mineable reserves estimated at containing 1.17 Mt grading 10.24 g/t gold for 386 000 oz gold.
Bolivia has several smaller scale gold projects currently undergoing feasibility studies by several foreign companies. Apart from hard rock gold finds, Bolivia has several high grade alluvial gold fields. The largest and highest grade fields are located on the Challana, the Kaka, the Mapirí, and the Tipuani river valleys in northern part of La Paz. Golden Eagle Bolivia are currently evaluating the Tipuani region where the company has secured mining rights over 74 000 acres. The Araras area near the border with Brazil has also been identified as prospective for alluvial gold, in particular the Madera and the Madre de Dios Rivers.


Brazil

Brazil produced an estimated 38t of gold in 2003, continuing the trend of lower production over the last few years. The decline can be attributed to the garimpeiros (artisinal miners) who produced 12.7 t of the 38 t and are exhausting higher grade, shallow alluvials deposits as well as stricter environmental controls. In 2003, AngloGold Ashanti became the country’s largest gold producer, producing 7,091 kg of gold from its operations at Morro Velho and 5,909 kg from Serra Grande (in which TVX Newmont Americas has a 50% share). Morro Velho and Serra Grande are located in the Minas Gerais State in south eastern Brazil.
Rio Paracatu Mineracao (RPM) operates Brazil’s third largest gold mine at Moro do Ouro. Rio Tinto and Autram own 51% and 49% of RPM respectively.The third largest producer was Sao Bento Mineracao (owned by Eldorado Gold Corp)which produced 2,956 kg of gold.The Sao Bento Mine has a resource estimated at 3.24 Mt grading 8.95 g/t gold. Sao Bento is located in the eastern portion of the Iron Quadrangle Mining District in Minas Gerais
AngloGold Ashanti is conducting a feasibility study for the Cuiaba expansion project. The study began in 2003 and is expected to be completed by the second half of 2004. The project involves an expansion from 2400 t/d to 4000 t/d at a capital cost of US$ 110 million.


Chile

Chile’s gold production remained constant at 39 000 t in 2003, making it Latin America’s 3rd largest producer. It is also a major silver producer, producing over 1313 t of silver in 2000. Gold is produced a by product of several copper mining operations that form the backbone of Chile’s mining industry. However, there are several new gold mining operations being developed – notably Barrick’s Pascua – Lama – Veladero development along the El Indio Gold Belt on the border with Argentina. Construction is forecast to begin in late 2004. Pascua – Lama has proven and probable reserves estimated at over 17 Moz gold and 525 Moz silver. Annual production is anticipated at 800 000 oz gold and 20 Moz silver, making it one of South America’s largest gold mines.
The La Coipa silver – gold mine is operated by Compania Minera Mantos de Oro (MDO), a Chilean contractual mining company, which in turn is owned 50% by Placer Dome and 50% by TVX Newmont Americas. The joint venture is currently concentrating on the nearby Chimberos silver deposit, estimated to contain 4.8 Mt of ore grading at 305 g/t silver. La Coipa was Chile’s largest gold producer, producing over 200 000 oz per year at one stage. However, production has dropped due to concentrated extraction of the high grade Chimberos silver deposit.
Placer Dome, Arizona Star Resources and Bema Gold Corporation are developing the $ 1.3 billion Cerro Casale gold copper deposit that is anticipated to produce 1 Moz gold and 150 000t copper annually. The project has been put on hold pending an improvement in the bullion price. Studies on Cerro Casale indicate an 18 year open pit operation that will extract gold and silver from this low grade operation.
Meridian Gold has completed feasibility studies at its 100% owned El Penon deposit. Discovery of additional reserves from the nearby Quebrada Colorada deposit has extended reserves to contain 2.8 Moz gold. Meridian anticipates production at El Penon to total 300 000 oz in 2001.
Continuing low bullion prices coupled with poor peformance has forced Bema Gold (50%) and Kinross Gold (50%) to place the Refugio Mine under care and maintenance from mid 2001. Refugio is located in the Maricunga district of Chile’s Region III. The mine produced 170 000 oz gold in 2000 from proven and probable reserves of 38.3 Mt grading at 0.9 g/t gold. Stockpiles will be treated whilst the mine is placed on care and maintenance pending an improvement in the gold price. Refugio anticipates producing 122 000 oz gold in 2001.
The El Bronce or Petorca underground silver – gold mine is located in the foothills of the Andes at Petorca, approximately 145 km north of Santiago. The mine was owned by US based Coeur D’Alene Mines Corporation. The mine produced 64 000 oz silver and 29 000 oz gold in 1999, however operations have been suspended at the facility. Couer also operate the Fachinal silver – gold mine in Chile that produced 1.1 Moz silver and 25 000 oz gold in 1999. Couer intends disposing of these assets so that it an concentrate on its Cerro Bayo project, located close to Fachinal. Cerro Bayo is located in southern Chile and anticipates production from the combined open pit and underground operation to begin in May 2002. Production in 2002 is expected to reach 60 000 oz and climbing to 80 000 in 2003. Cash costs are expected to be below $150/oz.
Dayton Mining Corporation’s Andacollo operation has been shut down due to poor production and lower than expected gold prices. The operating company and wholly owned subsidiary of Andacollo, Compañia Minera Dayton Limitada, has been placed in liquidation.


Colombia

Colombia produced 21 t of gold in 2001, making it Latin America’s fifth largest producer, after Peru, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Most of Colombia’s gold production is produced from alluvial operations, mostly by local artisinal miners. Gold recoveries from these operations are poor, with recoveries of less than 60% being reported. The country’s largest alluvial operation occurs along the Nechi and Tigui Rivers – operated by Mineros de Antioquia S.A., Colombia’s largest official gold producer
Greystar Resources and Kinross Gold have a joint venture over the Angostura gold – silver property situated in the California – Angostura municipality, Santander, northeast Colombia. The Angostura project contains an estimated indicated and inferred resources of 96Mt at a grade of 1.6 g/t gold and 5.8 g/t silver, using a cut of 6 g/t gold


Guyana

Guyana’s gold production is dominated by the Omai Gold mine (second largest gold mine in Latin America), with production of 240,400 ounces in 2004. The Omai gold mine is owned by Cambior Inc. and is located some 160 kilometres south of the capital city of Georgetown. The mine has produced over 3.7 million ounces of gold to date, almost twice as much as forecast in the feasibility study. Unfortunately, despite an ongoing exploration program, the mine will shut down in the third quarter of 2005 after almost 13 years of operation, due to the depletion of mineral reserves. The Fennell pit was depleted in the third quarter of 2004, and since then only ore from low-grade stockpiles has been treated at the mill.
Mine production has been decreasing from a peak of 354,300 ounces in 2001.The Company has already begun the rehabilitation of the mine site. For the first nine months of 2005, the Omai mill will process 3.8 million tonnes of ore at an average grade of 0.98 g Au/t for a production of 107,000 ounces of gold.
StrataGold Corporation owns the Tassawini Property which is located 170 kilometres northwest of Georgetown, Guyana, South America. The project is an advanced-stage gold exploration property centered on the site of the former producing Tassawini Gold Mine where, between 1907 and 1914, a total of 11,200 ounces of gold was recovered. To date, US$11.5 million has been spend on exploration, including a 116-hole diamond-drilling program conducted by Paranapanema Mineracao S.A during the period of 1986 to 1988, followed by a feasibility study completed by Kilborn Limited, Canada. In January 2005, StrataGold announced the discovery of two new gold mineralized zones at Sonne and Black Ridge.


Suriname

The Rosebel Mine produced 694,100 ounces of gold in 2004 and is expected to produce 320,000 ounces in 2005. Cambior Inc. owns the Rosebel mine which is located in Suriname, some 100 kilometres south of Paramaribo, the country’s capital. Cambior has been involved in the Rosebel project since 1994, earning a 50% interest through the funding of exploration and development. In 2002, Cambior acquired the remaining interest in the project from Golden Star Resources Ltd. Following an updated feasibility study, a modification to the mineral agreement and the securing of necessary financing, Cambior initiated the construction and development of a 14,000 tonne-per-day (tpd) mine in 2003 at a cost of $95 million that was completed on both time and on budget on February 11, 2004. Cambior Inc. owns 95% of the participating share capital of the Rosebel Gold Mines N.V. while the remaining 5% is held by the Government of Suriname.
Sara Kreek is the other operating gold mine in the Republic of Suriname and is owned by Canarc Resource Corp. Production is currently averaging 4,000 oz. gold per year from the small, open pit placer mine. The Sara Kreek property produced over 500,000 oz. gold historically and has the potential for additional discoveries.
Benzdorp is historically the most prolific gold producing region in the Republic of Suriname with alluvial production exceeding 1 million oz. gold. Canarc has announced that its recent exploration results confirm the potential for a major new gold discovery.


Uruguay

Uruguay Mineral Exploration (UME) is the only active exploration company in Uruguay and operates the only gold mine in Uruguay which is in production. The company operates the San Gregorio processing facility and gold mines at Minas de Corrales in northern Uruguay, where it plans to produce in excess of 100,000 ounces of gold from 2005 onwards.
UME is also exploring for gold at the Minas de Corrales Gold Project which is situated approximately 450 kilometres north of Montevideo and is Uruguay’s only operating gold mine. The Corporation controls 100% of this historic gold field, which is characterized by widespread gold mineralization. The two largest deposits discovered to-date are the San Gregorio deposit, which has produced over 500,000 ounces since it was discovered in the mid 1880’s, and the Arenal deposit, which was discovered in 2003.
The company’s Mirta, which is located near Colonia in the south-west of Uruguay, is a complex, shear-hosted gold deposit. The deposit is characterized by a series of short, plunging, high grade ore zones contained within a broader, low-grade mineralization envelope.


Venezuela

Hecla Mining Company acquired the La Camorra mine in 1999, and has produced 686,881 ounces of gold out of Venezuela since then. Counting production prior to Hecla’s acquisition, La Camorra is expected to mine its millionth ounce of gold sometime during the second quarter of 2005. In 2005, the La Camorra Unit is projected to produce about 140,000 ounces of gold. The La Camorra Unit, located in Bolivar State in eastern Venezuela, produced 130,437 ounces of gold in 2004, with an average ore grade at the La Camorra mine of nearly three-quarters of an ounce per ton.
Hecla began development of a new gold mine in Venezuela during 2004. Mina Isidora, located about 70 miles north of La Camorra on the Block B lease in the El Callao mining district, is part of the La Camorra Unit. The mine is scheduled to go into full operation starting in 2006, although some gold production is expected as early as the end of 2005. Approximately 350,000 ounces of proven and probable gold reserve has been identified at Mina Isidora.
Crystallex’s producing mines are in Venezuela’s Bolivar State near the historic gold mining centre of El Callao. In 2003 Crystallex had a gold production of 35,244 ounces at an average total cash cost of US$378 per ounce of gold sold in Venezuela. During 2003, gold was produced from three deposits on the Tomi concession and from an open pit mine on the La Victoria concession. Ore from the Tomi and La Victoria mines is processed at the Company’s Revemin mill, which is located ten kilometres from the La Victoria mine and twenty one kilometres from the Tomi mines.
In September 2002, Crystallex signed a Mining Operation Agreement with the Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG) which granted Crystallex exclusive rights to develop and exploit the gold deposits on the Las Cristinas property. A positive Feasibility Study was completed by SNC Lavalin Engineers and Constructors Inc. (SNCL) in September 2003 and the study was approved by the CVG on March 8, 2004. The engineering and construction schedule is estimated at approximately 24 months from the start of detailed engineering, which started at the beginning of April 2004.
Crystallex owns 100% of the Tomi concession, which is located in Bolivar State, 16 kilometres northeast of El Callao.Gold production from the Tomi concession was 27,113 ounces in 2003, representing 77% of the Company’s Venezuelan gold production. At the end of the third quarter, mining of ore was temporarily suspended at the La Victoria mine and shifted entirely to the Tomi concession.
La Victoria is the largest of six deposits on the Lo Increible property located in southeastern Venezuela in the historic El Callao gold district. The property is located three kilometres north of the town of El Callao in Bolivar State. Crystallex acquired its 51% interest in Lo Increible in 2001 and commenced open pit mining at La Victoria in April of that year. In 2003 the Company wrote-down the carrying value of La Victoria by C$18.8 million, reducing the carrying value to zero.
CVG Minerven operates within the El Callao Gold Mining District, known by its potential and past production over the last 180 years. The company’s mines and plants are located on the El Callao municipality, south of Bolivar state, Venezuela (South America). CVG has a total area of 48,848 Ha granted by the Energy and Mining Ministry, including Own Concessions (6,000 Ha), Concessions Leased by CVG (15.154 Ha) and Commissions Leased by CVG (conversion pending, 27,624 Ha).
CVG Minerven’s gold production depends upon two mining areas, Colombia and Union mines, and two processing facilities, Caratal and El Peru plants. Operations in Colombia mine are underground, while Union mine is exploited open-pit. Caratal plant has a built capacity of 700 ton per day, and El Peru plant can process as much as 500 ton per day.