Our operations in Australia
The two AngloGold Ashanti operations in Australia are Sunrise Dam and Tropicana, both of which are in the north-eastern goldfields in the state of Western Australia. Sunrise Dam is wholly owned, while we have a 70% holding in, and manage, Tropicana, with Regis Resources Ltd, our partner, holding the balance. Regis Resources acquired the stake in Tropicana from IGO Ltd on 31 March 2021. Sunrise Dam includes the Butcher Well project (70%).
Together, these operations produced 494,000oz in 2021 (2020: 554,000oz), contributing about 20% to group production.
At the end of 2021, the Australian operations accounted for about 10% of the group’s total Ore Reserve and 8% of its total Mineral Resource.
The Australian operations employed an average of 1,332 people, of whom 1,044 were contractors, in 2021.
- Improved mine flexibility remained a strong focus at Sunrise Dam where the investment in exploration added 0.7Moz to its Mineral Resource and 0.4Moz to Ore Reserve in 2021 (pre-depletion)
- Sunrise Dam’s Golden Delicious open pit, where mining is carried out by indigenous mining contractor Carey Mining, achieved all planned metrics in 2021
- Waste stripping continued at Tropicana’s Havana pit while ore and waste were mined from the Boston Shaker pit as well as Havana
- The Boston Shaker underground operation successfully ramped up and is performing in line with the feasibility study
- All staff and contractors are fully vaccinated as per Western Australia’s state-wide mandate for all fly-in, fly-out mineworkers and visitors to mine and exploration sites
- Productivity at both mines impacted by acute skilled labour shortages across the Australian mining sector. Western Australia’s strict COVID-related border closures prevented the interstate movement of fly-in, fly-out employees and constrained recruitment from outside the state. The labour shortage was compounded by demand from new projects and project expansions in the state, driven by strong commodity prices, especially iron ore
- Production at Tropicana was also hampered by a pit-wall failure in the Boston Shaker open pit during the third quarter of 2021, delaying production by about 30,000oz
- Tonnes mined at Sunrise Dam’s underground mine were lower than expected, largely due to labour shortages
- A stronger Australian dollar impacted costs
- Production for the year was 494,000oz (2020: 554,000oz), achieved at a total cash cost of $1,196/oz (2020: $968/oz)
- Higher all-in sustaining cost of $1,500/oz (2020: $1,225/oz)
- Capital expenditure of $185m (2020: $143m)
- Safety performance regressed, from an AIFR of 3.74 per million hours worked in 2020, to 6.59. The increase in the number of incidents in 2021 is attributed to a range of COVID-related factors, including high employee turnover (see comment on labour market above) coupled with an increase in the proportion of inexperienced workers
- Community investment of $1.01m (2020: $0.81m)
- All operations certified in terms of the Cyanide Code, ISO 45000 (health and safety) and ISO 14001
While production declined year-on-year, the Australia assets recorded a stronger second half of the year with output improving by 23%, when compared to the first half of the year.
At Sunrise Dam the new, higher-grade and shallower Frankie orebody was accessed at year-end, and 1.09Mt of ore was mined from the new, relatively short life Golden Delicious open pit, displacing lower grade stockpile material from mill feed in the second half of the year. Recovery rates also improved in the second six months of 2021 versus the first half. Mining at Golden Delicious is progressing well, with this material stockpiled and blended with underground ore to optimise throughput and production.
At Tropicana, open pit material movement was lower than planned in 2021, due primarily to the severe shortage of skilled operators and maintenance personnel. The mine plan was adjusted to mitigate this shortfall and reduce the impact on gold production. Progress in the lower priority (bulk waste) work areas suffered as a consequence, resulting in less waste stripping of cutbacks being carried out.
Outlook – future focus
- The lower stripping rates in 2021 will impact production in the next one to two years. To mitigate this, and ensure production potential in future years (particularly 2023 and 2024), a primary focus in 2022 will be the optimal sequencing of the pits and ensuring waste stripping is carried out on schedule
- Work will continue to build the pipeline of skilled personnel for our sites, including the Company’s successful graduate programme and traineeships
- Our Full Asset Potential review began at Sunrise Dam in February 2022. The aim of the review is to complete a detailed analysis of each asset, including mine design and key operating parameters, and to understand the reasons for the gap between current and best possible performance