Caledonia looks to one fifth gold increase as starts work on Bilboes oxide mine

ZIMBABWEAN gold miner Caledonia Mining has forecast a more than 20% increase in annual production in 2023 after recording a new record of 80,775 ounces last year.

The increase this year was a result of a small, $540,000 project to strip overburden and mine low grade oxides from its newly acquired Bilboes Project, an operation previously operated by Anglo America Zimbabwe before the group existed Zimbabwe in 2002.

Production from Bilboes, that will serve as pre-stripping for a more substantial sulphides project, is forecast to be about 12,500 to 17,000 oz this year taking Caledonia’s total annual production to between 87,500 to 97,000 oz. Mining would begin in February with first gold expected to be produced in March.

Caledonia’s gold production last year was a result of a seven-year deepening of its Central Shaft at its 64%-owned flagship mine Blanket at a cost of $60m. Prior to the Blanket extension, Caledonia Mining had an annual run rate production of about 60,000 oz.

Mark Learmonth, CEO of Caledonia Mining since last year, said that in addition to the modest outlay at the Bilboes oxide project, the company would also spend $9.6m building a new tailings facility at Blanket and a further $9.8m on the Central Shaft extension which would allow for long-term mining.

Caledonia Mining had also started a feasibility project on the sulphides extension at Bilboes. If the 12- to 14-month study checks out, Bilboes will increase Caledonia’s production to about 168,000 oz. Bilboes has produced 288,000 oz since it was opened in 1989.

The project was acquired last year and follows the acquisition for $4m of Maligreen in 2021, a near-development project, and in November the purchase of Motapa – an exploration asset. Motapa was also previously owned by Anglo American Zimbabwe.

“Over the last 18 months the company has built an attractive portfolio of assets with the acquisitions of Bilboes, Motapa and Maligreen,” said Learmonth in a statement today. “Blanket will continue to serve as a solid foundation for this growth as we look to progress with our long-term goal of becoming a multi-asset gold producer,” he said.