A survey by of 49 publicly traded companies accounting for 60% of world gold output, which was conducted by New Jersey’s John Tumazos Very Independent Research, estimates that one-third of gold mines have pretax costs of $1,250 to $1,750 per ounce.
“The selloff from $1,900 in September 2011 to nearly $1,350 on April 15th places prices squarely within the costs of the highest one-third of mines,” wrote long-time gold analyst John Tumazos.
“Large gold mines have about $450 per oz of other costs beyond mine cash production costs such as exploration, SG&A, interest, depreciation, etc.,” said Tumazos. “In 2013 we estimated ABX [Barrick] at $422, NEW [Newmont] at $449 and GG [Goldcorp] at $453 per oz.”
“There were 16 of 49 companies with very low costs, having all mines <$800 direct cash production costs, accounting for 23% or 11.5 mm oz of our 49.1 mm oz or 1,528 tonne sample,” the survey revealed. “There were 15 of 49 companies with very high costs, having all mines >$800 direct cash costs, for 12% or 5.8 mm oz of our 49.1 mm oz or 1,528 t sample.”
In a statement received by Mineweb Wednesday, Tumazos clarified that only four companies, not the five originally contained in his analysis—Sibanye Gold (just spun out of Gold Fields), and DRD Gold, Veris Gold (Jerritt Canyon, NV) and about ¾ of Harmony Gold–have direct costs exceeding $1,000 for all mines. “These companies are under the most pressure,” he noted.
Tumazos predicted, “While a few old mines will be lost, unfunded new projects slated for 2016 or 2017 may likely die off given the lack of gold mine equity capital. We estimate that up to 5% of current output may wither then die, but 10% of prospective 2016 or 2017 output will not arrive on time.”
In his analysis Tumazos observed the cost structure of the global gold mining industry suggests a temporary spike below $1,000 gold is improbable. “We stop short of using the word ‘impossible’, but it is clear that costs are about three times as high as they were a decade ago as the mining boom began. Lower grade mines, $90 per barrel crude oil, appreciated resource currencies, wage inflation, government royalties and natural productivity losses to depth have driven costs higher. This is another factor suggesting to us that the past month’s decline in gold prices constitute a ‘panic.’”
Over long periods of time such as five or more years, Tumazos expects gold mining costs to rise as open pit and underground mines deepen to lose productivity and suffer high stripping, metallurgies grow more complex at depth and grades decline.
Tumazos also advised that direct cash production costs may change with currency, mine practices or other input costs. “Higher cutoffs grades, deferred stripping, deferred underground tunnel, stope and infrastructure development and bypassing hard-to-mine zones can cut costs by 25% or more for a year or two. Exploration and administrative charges will fall.”
Observing that base metals mines account for cost to 20% of world gold mine output, Tumazos said, “Recent prices near $7 for nickel, $0.80 for zinc, $0.90 for lead and $3.25 per lb for copper put mild pressure on some of those mines.”