AngloGold Ashanti announced the start of production at the Tropicana gold mine in Western Australia on September 26. Located 330 km east-northeast of Kalgoorlie, Tropicana was originally forecast to begin production in the fourth quarter of this year. The company is now focusing of ramping up to design throughput capacity of 5.5 million mt/y by year-end 2013. 

AngloGold Ashanti is 70% owner and project manager at Tropicana. Independence Group NL owns the remaining 30%. Capital expenditure for the project totaled between A$820 million and A$845 million.

Tropicana has a current estimated mine life of more than 10 years. Average annual production over the life of the operation is forecast at 330,000 to 350,000 oz/y at an average cash cost of A$710 to A$730/oz. In its first three years of operation, the mine will produce between 470,000 and 490,000 oz/y at cash costs of between A$590 and A$630/oz.

Viewed as the most significant Australian gold discovery of the past decade, Tropicana was discovered in 2005 after AngloGold Ashanti Australia followed up on an unexplained gold-in-soil anomaly Independence Group had recognized in public-domain regional data collected in the 1990s. AngloGold Ashanti subsequently discovered the Havana and Boston Shaker deposits, which, with the Tropicana deposit, define a northeast-trending mineralized corridor spanning a width of 1.2 km and a length of 5 km.

Tropicana now has total mineral resources of 118 million mt grading 2.08 g/mt, for 7.89 million contained oz, and an ore reserve of 57.1 million mt grading 2.12 g/mt, for 3.90 million contained oz. The joint venture has approximately 10,500 km2 of tenements in the district. 

Construction of the 5.8-million-mt/y Tropicana processing plant began in late 2011, after completion of a new 220-km road from Pinjin to the site.

Open-pit mining of the Havana starter pit began in July 2012. Currently planned operations are based on open-pit mining of the Tropicana, Havana, and Boston Shaker deposits. A pre-feasibility study considering the trade-off between open-pit and underground mining of the Havana Deeps orebody is due for completion at year-end 2013.

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