Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

CENTRAL Rand Gold said on Wednesday it had produced 13,709oz of gold last year — within 98% of its production guidance issued in its third-quarter interim management statement.

The junior gold miner said it would continue to focus this year on improving its mine call factor — an indication of the accuracy of its gold grade estimates — to achieve "a more sustainable and industry norm of between 75% and 85%". The company said in December that its mine call factor had dropped to 57%.

Central Rand mines areas south of Johannesburg that were left behind after a century of mining when previous companies extracted the high-grade ore bodies and left behind those of lower gold concentrations. With high gold prices, these have become economically viable.

While underground production performed in line with management expectations last year and the company was extracting its target of 14,000 tons run rate a month, gold production was affected by processing difficulties and below anticipated mine call factor recovery in the third and fourth quarters.

The company said it had a "significant focus" on reducing its gold losses throughout the production process. It had identified that up to 40% of its gold losses occurred in ore handling during its primary and secondary crushing processes.

Major modifications to its crushing circuit were undertaken last month to optimise tramming (transport by mine car), eliminate external crushing costs "and, most importantly, to minimise fine-gold losses during the primary crushing stage".

A further contributor to lower production in the fourth quarter of last year was a marked decrease in the availability of the Bateman mill, where gearbox failures culminated in a two-week shutdown and rectification last month. A planned five-day shutdown of the carbon in pulp mill last month had to be extended for extra repair work. The company expected that production targets for both mills would now be consistently achieved.

Based on the current underground production profile of 14,000 tons a month being maintained, Central Rand expected full-year production of 14,500oz to 15,000oz. The company said it understood the need "to move beyond the current production range and plans to finalise its medium-and long-term growth strategy by June".