AUSTRALIAN miner OceanaGold Corp. expects to start underground mining operations by the end of next year once it has completed mining of Stage 5 of the open pit at the Didipio copper-gold mine in Nueva Vizcaya.
The company, however, is currently facing regulatory review following complaints from Nueva Vizcaya residents about the possible expansion of the company’s operations.
“Mining of Stage 5 of the open pit was completed during the second quarter, ahead of schedule, while development of the underground continues to advance well,” said Mick Wilkes, OceanaGold president and chief executive officer.
OceanaGold holds significant exploration tenements in the Philippines and its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) covers approximately 158 square kilometers located in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.
Joey Leviste, OceanaGold Philippines chairman, said they have yet to receive a copy of the order from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) over the possible suspension of their exploration permit.
“We will wait for the official order if true,” Leviste said, noting that news of the suspension came from anti-mining groups.
Leviste also clarified that current operations at Didipio are separate from the five-year exploration permit award from the MGB.
“We can’t comment further because we have to see if there really was a suspension. Because we have a legitimate permit from the government,” the executive stressed.
The MGB issued the permit to OceanGold in March this year, allowing the company to conduct exploration activities in the broader region surrounding Didipio in the next five years.
OceanaGold’s mining claim covers around 15,000 hectares, but the company has only explored and developed around 900 hectares.
OceanaGold operates the Didipio mine, a high-grade gold-copper open pit and underground mine located around 270 kilometers north of Manila.
The mine is one of the lowest-cost gold mines in the world, with nominal production of 100,000 ounces of gold and 14,000 tons of copper. It has an estimated reserve of 1.59
million ounces of gold and 210,000 tons of copper. It had its full-year of operation in 2014.
Over the past few years, previous geochemical sampling has identified several gold and copper soil anomalies in close proximity to the Didipio operation.
Meanwhile, Wilkes announced another strong result for OceanaGold for the first half, attributed to slightly higher gold prices which offset high production costs.
For the first half of 2016, the company reported revenue of $330.8 million and net profit of $63.2 million while EBITDA was $155.2 million.
In the second quarter alone, the company recorded revenue of $169.8 million and net profit of $39.7 million.
“After a strong first half of the year, the company is well positioned to achieve its production and cost guidance for the year,” Wilkes said.
“We will continue to operate safely while seeking to unlock the organic growth potential of our assets. As ever, we are strongly committed to working with all of our stakeholders to deliver meaningful benefits to communities and superior returns to shareholders, as we have done so in the last several years,” the executive added.