NEWCREST Mining Ltd and Harmony Gold believe that deposits in their joint venture Wafi-Golpu copper and gold project in Morobe could double in size.
Newcrest is the new operator of Lihir gold mine on Lihir Island while Harmony has mining interests in South Africa.
The partners had previously told the market that the resource estimate at Wafi-Golpu stood at 16 million ounces of gold and 4.9 million tonnes of copper.
But latest drilling has further extended the deposit.
The partners have now upgraded their ‘’exploration target’’ to a potential 30moz of gold and 8 million tonnes of copper.
Sydney Morning Herald newspaper last Friday reported that Newcrest managing director Ian Smith told analysts last Thursday that the Wafi-Golpu was shaping up as a major discovery and would form the basis of a ‘’major ongoing long life operation into the future’’.
A pre-feasibility study is planned for next year and Smith said that could lead to a development decision in 2014.
Smith was speaking on the release of Newcrest’s September-quarter production report – its first since acquiring Lihir.
Gold production for the quarter from all operations was 674,219oz.
Newcrest also disclosed in its third quarter ending report that a new operating model it would adopt for the goldmine on Lihir island in New Ireland province would cost an additional US$260 million (K640 million), taking the cost of the mine’s optimisation programme from what Lihir had forecast to about US$1.23 billion (K3.2 billion).
But the additional cost was more than covered by the additional 10 million ounces it would contribute to mine production out to 2040.
Newcrest’s cash costs at A$488 an ounce for the quarter were up from A$342 an ounce in the previous quarter due to the inclusion of Lihir’s higher-cost operations, the impact of lower grades and exchange-rate movements.
The gold production effort was lower than the market expected