Canada’s Kinross Gold Corporation has completed the Phase One expansion at its Tasiast gold mine in Mauritania but has “paused” the implementation of Phase Two. Tasiast, which produced 243 240 gold equivalent ounces in 2017, is one of two operations Kinross has in West Africa (the other being the Chirano mine in Ghana).

Commenting on the company’s results for the second quarter ended 30 June 30, 2018, Paul Rollinson, President and CEO, said: “At Tasiast, construction was completed at the Phase One expansion, with first ore now through the SAG mill. The project has been transferred to Operations and is in the final stages of commissioning.

Kinross puts Phase Two expansion at Tasiast on hold

The Phase One expansion project at Tasiast is now complete (photo: Kinross).

“We have decided to pause activities at Phase Two and, to maintain optionality, are analysing alternative throughput approaches to expand Tasiast as we continue to engage with the Government of Mauritania regarding our activities in the country. The completion of our evaluation of alternative approaches, and a Phase Two re-start decision, are subject to our ongoing engagement with the Government. We remain committed to disciplined capital allocation as we seek additional clarity on the matter.”

As previously disclosed, in early May 2018, the company received a letter from the Government of Mauritania stating a desire to enter into discussions with respect to the company’s activities in the country, which Kinross understood as seeking greater benefits for the country.

The Tasiast mine is an open-pit operation located in north-western Mauritania, approximately 300 km north of the capital, Nouakchott. Tasiast processes ore via mill and dump leach. Work continues on enhancing the performance of the existing mill and optimising the operation.

Throughput at the expanded Phase One plant has continued to ramp up and has peaked at 12 000 t/d. Phase One is expected to significantly reduce operating costs and increase production.

The Phase Two expansion that has been put on hold is a very substantial project. Kinross announced in September last year that it intended implementing the project. It stated at the time that “Phase Two is expected to increase mill capacity to 30 000 tonnes per day (t/d) to produce an average of approximately 812 000 gold ounces (Au oz) per year for the first five years, at an average production cost of sales of US$440 per Au oz and all-in sustaining cost of US$655 per Au oz.

“The project is expected to generate strong free cash flow of US$2,2 billion over the life of mine. Initial construction for Phase Two is expected to begin in early 2018, with expected initial plant and infrastructure capital costs of approximately US$590 million. Commercial production is expected to begin in Q3 2020.”

The Phase Two expansion would replace the two current ball mills with a new larger ball mill, and add new leaching, thickening and refinery capacity and additions to the mining fleet. A new power plant would also be added.

The Wood Group (which last year completed the acquisition of Amec Foster Wheeler) announced in May this year that it had been awarded the EPCM contract for the Phase Two expansion.

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