Salares Norte LR-minGold Fields Ltd. has started production at its Salares Norte gold mine in Chile’s Atacama province with the pouring of its first gold-silver doré on March 28, 2024. This represents a significant milestone for Gold Fields, which has taken the project from discovery, through exploration and development to production over the past 13 years.

Salares Norte is a world-class project with one of the industry’s lower cost profiles and a payback period of less than three years at current gold prices, Gold Fields CEO Mike Fraser explained. “The project’s construction is a credit to the innovation, experience, commitment, and persistence of the teams that worked on the project,” Fraser said. “To build a remote mine at 4,500 m above sea level with winter temperatures as low as -20°C and amidst a global pandemic is an incredible feat.”

Circuit A and Circuit B of the processing plant have now been commissioned and have been handed over to the operational team. Ramp up of the mine to steady state is progressing with gold equivalent production of 250,000 oz. All-in costs are expected to be $1,790/eq oz – $1,850/eq oz for 2024. Production volumes for 2025 are expected to be 580,000 oz.

The total capital cost of the project is expected to be in in line with guidance of $1.18 billion – $1.20 billion, of which $395 million was spent during 2023. The project costs have increased due to the delay in the start-up as well as an increase in the number of contractors on site and higher contractor rates.

Mining continued as planned throughout the course of 2023 and Q1 2024, with a cumulative 87.2 million metric tons (mt) of waste moved by the end of December 2024 and 2.3 million mt or ore containing 520,000 eq oz gold on stockpile.

Fluor was responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction management of the project. Construction and pre-commissioning activities are scheduled to be completed in April.