Newcrest’s Golden Cheer

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The market liked the news from Newcrest (NCM) yesterday of record gold production in the fourth quarter and the year to June.

The shares in Australia's biggest gold miner jumped by almost $2 at one stage, before settling back to trade $1.72 higher at $26.20.

Newcrest said in its fourth quarter production report that gold output rose 20 per cent in the three months to a record 463,170 ounces.

This in turn helped the company report record gold production for the year of 1.62 million ounces, up from 1.53 million in the 2006 financial year.

Driving the boost was output from the company's Cadia Hill mine in NSW which jumped 30 per cent thanks to higher grade ore being mined and processed.

Operational performance at its huge Telfer mine in Western Australia "improved progressively" throughout the quarter, after being hit by delays, cost overruns and flooding.

NCM said open pit mining at Telfer improved in May and June with the mining of higher grades of ore and higher rates of recovery of the metal.

The continuing impact of the heavy rain in March restricted April's production rates. "However access to Stage 3 open pit ore later in the quarter significantly improved the overall grade and recovery profile of the site," it said.

Open pit gold production increased 29 per cent during the quarter due to a 16 per cent improvement in gold grade and a 10 per cent increase in gold recovery.

"Underground gold production declined seven per cent as a result of reduced availability of ore due to March rainfall events," it added.

Newcrest said its copper production from Telfer was steady in the quarter.

The company is continuing work to improve mining conditions and cut costs at Telfer. A series of strategies was being implemented to increase overall gold and copper recoveries, including increasing plant availability and "de-bottlenecking" parts of the plant.

"These strategies are expected to be implemented over the next 12 months," it said.

Group copper production was 88,940 tonnes over the year and 22,188 tonnes in the June quarter. The quarter's figure was down 7 per cent on the final quarter of 2006.

The company said that "group cash costs for the quarter based on achieved copper prices were A$230/oz (A$283/oz) and for the full year, group cash costs based on achieved copper prices were A$280/oz."

The achieved gold price for the quarter was $A748 an ounce, compared to $A658 in the March quarter. For the year, the achieved gold price was $A682 an ounce. That compares to an achieved gold price of $A564 an ounce in the 2006 year.

Total gold hedge commitments (including gold loan) represent 13% of reserves and 7% of resources.

The achieved gold price for the quarter was A$748/oz (A$658oz), pre hedge accounting treatment. The higher achieved price is due to a lower proportion of sales hedged in the current quarter 26% (70%).

The legacy copper hedge positions were completed during the quarter. The hedgebook consists of a series of sold gold forwards and gold bullion sale contracts out to FY2013.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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