AngloGold may produce up to 200k oz less gold following Covid-19 shutdowns, SA sale

ANGLOGOLD Ashanti reinstated production guidance for its 2020 financial year after nearly a six month hiatus, saying it would register between 3.03 to 3.1 million ounces in output, including the Mponeng and Mine Waste Solutions in South Africa.

This compares to guidance in February of 3.05 to 3.3 million ounces prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in shutdowns of assets in Argentina and Brazil, but especially in South Africa where the Covid-19 related lockdown was extensive.

Excluding the South African assets – which have since been sold to Harmony Gold for $300m, effective October 1 – production guidance has been put at 2.8 to 2.86 million oz.

“We’re pleased to reintroduce guidance, which reflects our greater certainty in relation to full year operating performance,” said Christine Ramon, AngloGold Ashanti’s interim CEO in a statement today.

“Our operators have done an outstanding job managing through this period – limiting the impact of COVID-19 on production and costs, while prioritising the health of our employees and host communities.”

This was to some extent mirrored in the expected cost performance.

AngloGold said all-in sustaining costs (AISC) without the South African mines would come in at between $1,060 to $1,120 per oz compared to guidance of $1,050 to $1,100/oz. Previous guidance was for $1,040 to $1,100/oz.

The Cerro Vanguardia mine in Argentina, Minera Serra Grande in Brazil and all South African operations were ordered to close for varying periods, while border closures slowed down the Obuasi Redevelopment Project, said AngloGold.

“All subsequently returned to full production, whilst the completion date for the Obuasi project was moved out by three months to the end of the first quarter next year and it remains on track to meet that schedule,” it said.

Although the threat of additional lockdowns continues, the reinstated guidance underlines the relative well-being of primary metal producers in the South African mining sector relative to the concerns in March where it was feared lockdowns would heavily curtail production, hasten unemployment, and result in bankruptcies.

Instead, precious metal prices in particular have thrived as investors have sought out tangible wealth following government-backed stimulus efforts.

In August, AngloGold reported interim headline earnings of $404m (2019: $120m), equal to share earnings of 97c (29c).

Attributable profit was $421m ($114m). Free cash flow before growth capital – the metric on which AngloGold uses to calculate dividends – increased to $324m ($68m).