Our operations in the Americas
The Americas hosts three of our operations – one in Argentina and two in Brazil – as well as two greenfield projects in Colombia and a significant new greenfield development in Nevada in the United States.
These operations accounted for 25% of the group’s total Ore Reserve and 47% of its total Mineral Resource at the end of 2021.
The Americas operations contributed 23% or 559,000oz to total annual group production in 2021. These sites are in Argentina (Cerro Vanguardia) and Brazil (Serra Grande and AGA Mineração complex, which comprises the Cuiabá and Córrego do Sítio mines). The portfolio also includes the Quebradona and Gramalote projects in the Colombian department of Antioquia, which was undergoing environmental permitting and feasibility study respectively, while the La Colosa Project, in the department of Tolima, remains in force majeure. In the United States, the greenfield concessions – which include adjacent assets acquired with the Corvus acquisition – are located in the Beatty District in southern Nevada.
The Americas operations employed an average of 9,972 people, of whom 3,520 were contractors, in 2021.
- Conversion of TSFs in Brazil to dry-stacking facilities, in line with
Brazilian legislation, continued:
- Cuiabá and Córrego do Sítio commissioned two new filter plants, with a third to be added in 2022
- Serra Grande reinforced existing TSF and commissioned two new filter plants
- Cerro Vanguardia completed expansion of on-site accommodation to create added flexibility during periods of lock down among other things
- Corvus acquisition finalised in January 2022, giving us a prime position in the Beatty District in southern Nevada, the largest new gold area in the United States
- Direct and indirect impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continued to be felt across the region, hampering production and causing higher costs at all operations
- Increased cost pressures due to lower production, inflation and dry-stack conversion of our TSFs in Brazil – around $140m was spent on TSF conversions in 2021, a peak year for TSF investment. Costs are expected to be material from 2022 – 2025 but will decline over time
- The combination of lower production and higher sustaining capital contributed to abnormally high all-in sustaining unit costs
- Production for the year was 559,000oz (2020: 649,000oz), achieved at a total cash cost of $921/oz (2020: $721/oz)
- Higher AISC of $1,587/oz (2020: $1,003/oz), because of lower production and high levels of sustaining capital expenditure, largely in relation to the TSF conversion initiative
- One occupational fatality in Brazil, at Serra Grade, in February 2021. The all injury frequency rate improved to 3.55 (2020: 3.68)
- Community investment of $5.8m (2020: $6.2m)
- All American operations certified in terms of International Cyanide Management Code, ISO 45000 (health and safety) and ISO 14001
- Capital expenditure of $398m (2020: $217m)
The year in review was a challenging one for the Americas operations, which faced significant headwinds from COVID-19. There were, however, improvements in the second half of the year with production up 14% versus the first half. Sites faced a range of first- and second-order consequences of the pandemic, with Brazil experiencing significant absenteeism during the first half of the year, and Argentina’s production limited due to a range of travel and shiftrotation restrictions in response to various waves of the outbreak.
In Brazil, at both AGA Mineração and Serra Grande, plant throughput was scaled back during the second half to ensure tailings deposition remained within legally mandated limits while the conversion programme for the conversion of TSFs to dry-stacking facilities, was fast tracked. At AGA Mineração, operating challenges at Córrego do Sítio were partly offset by improvement at the larger Cuiabá mine, where tonnes of ore treated increased year-on-year.
At Cerro Vanguardia, where silver revenues are offset against gold cash costs, the negative impact of reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions was partly offset by continued weakness in the Argentinean peso against the US dollar and higher volumes of silver produced and sold.
In Colombia, the Quebradona Project remains an attractive long-life, high-grade, low-cost project which will add copper production to our portfolio. At Gramalote, a joint operation with B2Gold, the final feasibility study for the project is expected to be delivered during the course of 2022. Colombia’s environmental agency (ANLA) took the decision to archive our environmental licence application relating to the Quebradona project. AngloGold Ashanti has filed an appeal seeking to secure further details on the specific additional information the agency would require in order to be able to prepare a licence submission that would meet the agency’s requirements. This prcess will result in a delay of the project.
AngloGold Ashanti completed its acquisition of Corvus on 18 January 2022, consolidating much of the largest new gold district in Nevada. This provides AngloGold Ashanti the opportunity to establish, in the medium and longer term, a meaningful, low-cost, long-life production base in a premier mining jurisdiction.
As the Company has previously indicated, the consolidation of the Beatty District has the potential for significant synergies from economies of scale and integrated infrastructure, including water rights, adjacent concessions and processing facilities. The combined asset base also allows for unified engagement with federal, state and local stakeholders to advance and achieve shared sustainability goals and other district benefits, such as opportunities to design projects incorporating renewable energy, as well as develop conservation and other local projects in conjunction with the Beatty community. Following the completion of the Corvus transaction, water rights that will form an important part of the district’s development, have transferred to AngloGold Ashanti.
The Company’s conceptual development plan for the district envisions the North Bullfrog deposit – previously owned by Corvus – being developed first, with initial production expected in the next three years. This is expected to be followed by AngloGold Ashanti’s Silicon deposit – which has declared a maiden 3.4Moz Mineral Resource – and then potentially the Merlin target near Silicon. The timing for mining activities at the Mother Lode deposit is expected to start only in the long term after the Company completes additional study work. This initial development schedule is expected to be supplemented by various other prospective deposits being explored across the tenement. It is expected that deposits will be developed in a modular fashion, mined initially as open pits and processed using heap leach and gravity recovery where applicable. This pathway provides the opportunity for project capital expenditure intensity to develop in a staged fashion. The district is expected to yield more than 300,000oz annually over more than a decade at a Tier One cost structure. Sulphide processing and underground mining will be evaluated in the longer term. AngloGold Ashanti’s technical team has initiated the process of evaluating the Corvus’ Mineral Resource. For 2022, multiple activities are planned to take place in the district, with requisite drilling underway at North Bullfrog and Silicon, with an aim to convert Mineral Resource to Ore Reserve. We also plan to begin a pre-feasibility study at Silicon and initiate a concept study for the Merlin deposit. The permitting process for North Bullfrog is expected to start in the first half of 2022. Importantly, given the various deposits across the tenement, our approach to mapping these deposits is expected to take place over a number of years in a staged and de-risked manner.
Outlook – future focus
- Full Asset Potential Review is due to begin at AGA MineraÇão’s Cuiabá complex during 2022
- Continue inward investment programme to improve Ore Reserve life and enhance operating flexibility at all operations
- Evaluate Gramalote enhanced feasibility results due during the third quarter, and decide on future course of action
- Continue engagement with environmental regulator in Colombia regarding Quebradona permit application and take steps necessary to address any deficiencies in original permit application
- Progress completion of the TSF conversion programme across all operations in Brazil
- In Nevada our technical team has initiated its evaluation of
the Corvus Mineral Resource and, for 2022, multiple activities
are either underway or planned including:
- Ore Reserve-conversion drilling at North Bullfrog and Silicon
- Prefeasibility study underway at Silicon and a concept study for the Merlin deposit is scheduled to begin
- Permitting for North Bullfrog, which is due to start before mid-year