During the first quarter of 2019, average all-in sustaining costs (AISC) incurred by gold miners across the globe rose slightly over the previous quarter, from $988/oz in Q4 2018 to $1,000/oz in Q1 2019, indicating that companies were mostly able to keep costs under control.

The AISC metric serve as a benchmark of a mine’s operating efficiency. They provide a more comprehensive look at mine economics than the traditional “cash costs” approach that many companies may interpret arbitrarily – and it includes important expenses such as overhead outlays and capital used in ongoing exploration, mine development and production.

Mining Intelligence, a MINING.com sister company, looked at costs at primary gold mines and ranked them based on AISC. Primary gold operations are defined by Mining Intelligence as “mines where gold contributed to 80% or more of revenues from operating activities generated last year.”

The data used by Mining Intelligence represents companies reporting quarterly production and listed on the following stock exchanges: TSX (+TSX-V), ASX, LSE (+LSE-AIM), NYSE, and JSE. The ranking excludes privately-owned mines, tailings, re-processing operations, mines where the precious metal is produced as a by-product, and operations where companies report gold-equivalent output.

Six of the top 10 lowest cost mines shown in the above table have seen their costs decline during Q1 2019, led by Kirkland Lake’s Fosterville mine in Australia, which topped the list for the second consecutive quarter.

Making a comeback this year is Barrick’s jointly owned Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, where AISC fell below $550/oz once again, restoring its status as one of the world’s lowest cost producers.

Three mines had significant cost improvements (+20% in cost reductions) over the previous quarter, propelling them into the latest top 10 list: Evolution Mining’s Mt Carlton operation in Australia, K92’s Kainantu mine in Papua New Guinea and Polyus’ Natalka in Russia. The fourth newcomer to the list is Semafo’s Natougou-Boungo mine in Burkina Faso.

Mines that fell short of holding down their place on the list (for now) include Neryungri (Russia), Copler (Turkey), Moose River (Canada) and Hounde (Burkina Faso).

1 Fosterville – $315/oz

Fosterville mine. Image by Kirkland Gold

Fosterville is the largest gold producer in the state of Victoria, Australia. The underground mine is owned by Toronto-based Kirkland Lake Gold. Production in 2018 totalled 356,230 ounces. Recently the company raised the production guidance to 550,000-610,000 ounces for 2019-2020, up from the previous guidance of 390,000–430,000 ounces.

2 Mt. Carlton – $484/oz

Mt Carlton operation. Image by Evolution Mining

The Mt Carlton open-pit mine is situated 150 km south of Townsville in Queensland, Australia. Last year Mt Carlton achieved over 100,000 ounces of gold production for the third year in a row — at a record-low AISC — making it one of the lowest cost operations in world.

3 Long Canyon – $516/oz

Long Canyon mine. Image by Newmont

Newmont’s Long Canyon open-pit mine is of the same mineralization style as Barrick’s South Arturo deposit, and the only significant discovery made in Nevada in the last decade. The nature of the deposit, application of a heap leach technology and tapping into existing infrastructure keep costs at Long Canyon at some of the lowest levels in the industry.

4 Olimpiada – $521/oz

Olimpiada mine. Image by Polyus

Located in one of Russia’s most prolific gold mining provinces, Olimpiada is Polyus’ largest operation. To treat Olimpiada’s sulphide ores, Polyus employs BIONORD, the company’s proprietary bio-oxidation technology. Successful exploration activities in the area indicate the potential for substantial extension of the life of this mine.

5 Kainantu – $534/oz

Kainantu gold mine. Image by K92 Mining Inc.

Acquired from Barrick in 2015, K92 Mining’s Kainantu gold mine is located in the Eastern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea. Recently the company began expansion work at the mine, aiming to double annual gold output from 200,000 to 400,000 tonnes, which may add to the project’s AISC rise later this year.

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