JSE-listed diversified resources company Village Main Reef has revealed during its release of the companys production results, that total gold production for Q3 ended 31 March 2013 was 9% (or 4 306oz) lower at 44 806 oz, than the gold production achieved during the December quarter, largely as a result of safety-related stoppages and the seasonal effect of the slow start-up following the Christmas break.

The March quarter is traditionally a weak production period for the gold mining industry. The down time in production over the festive season, combined with the safety-related stoppages arising from the fatal accidents at our Tau and Buffels mines, resulted in lower production volumes, explained Village Main Reefs joint CEO Marius Saaiman.

Gold production at Tau Lekoa Gold Mine for the March quarter was 20 865 oz, a decline of 24% (or 6 496 oz) compared to the December quarter. The company highlighted that lower production was largely due to safety related stoppages following a fatal accident and the impact of lower production volumes on the overall mining mix, resulting in a lower recovered grade.

Nevertheless, Village conceded that production volumes and mining mix improved towards the latter part of the quarter following specific interventions and the implementation of safety improvement plans. The company said that it expects these efforts to positively affect production during the June 2013 quarter.

Meanwhile, gold production at Buffelsfontein Gold Mine was 7 150 oz for the March quarter, a decline of 31% (or 3 209oz) compared to the December quarter, owing to the high grade 2 shaft experiencing a number of stoppages resulting in almost no contribution from this shaft during the quarter.

In addition, safety stoppages following a fatal accident at Villages high volume 6 shaft, had a significant impact on both production volumes and grade.

The company has advised that the action plans arising from an independent safety system audit have been implemented and continue to strategise to de-risk the operation from ongoing safety stoppages.

Total Antimony production however, was 14% (or 178t) higher at 1433 t, than the production achieved during the December quarter, as a result of an improved ore mix following the implementation of a more focused ore reserve management strategy at Cons Murch Gold and Antimony mine.

Gold production at Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine was 13 985oz, a 49% (or 4 630 oz) improvement compared to the December quarter. Production volumes from underground operations improved significantly following improved labour relations, combined with the positive impact of more available working areas due to the re-establishment of affected panels post the seismic event in the previous quarter.

In line with the overall turnaround strategy, a revised fall of ground management strategy and ore reserve management techniques were also implemented during the quarter. Blyvoor successfully concluded a restructuring plan during the quarter resulting in some 960 employees being retrenched.

Though regrettable, Village lamented that the resulting cost benefit thereof should be evident in the June quarter and will contribute to the ongoing sustainability of the mine.

Village also took a significant step towards diversifying its asset portfolio, through an investment in thermal coal company Continental Coal, setting the company firmly on a path to becoming a diversified resource investment company.

Villages Consolidated Murchison Mine, which it confirmed earlier this year to be among assets to be sold, delivered 1 433 t of antimony and 2 806 oz of gold for the March quarter, an improvement of 14% (or 178 t) in antimony and 38% (or 769 oz) in gold compared to the December quarter.

The company noted that production improved mainly due to an improved ore mix following successful implementation of a focused ore reserve management strategy, resulting in more consistent production volumes throughout the quarter.

Production at Cons Murch is expected to be stable in the forthcoming quarter with the potential for additional production from the Gravelotte decline as reef has been intersected, Village concluded in a statement.

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