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Australian gold production soars on record prices

Australian gold production soars on record prices

The West Australian ©

    Australian gold production soared last year to its highest level since 2003 as miners capitalised on record prices.

    Gold output from domestic mines in 2010 lifted by about 17 per cent or 38 tonnes to 266 tonnes or 8.5 million ounces (oz), Melbourne-based industry consultants Surbiton Associates said in its latest survey of the Australian gold mining industry.

    "Gold produced from Australian mines in 2010 was worth some $A12 billion at the current spot price," Surbiton director Sandra Close said.

    "Gold remains one of Australia's top export earners."

    Australia retained its position as the world's second largest gold producing country in 2010, Dr Close said.

    "China was number one with reported production of 341 tonnes and it looks as though the United States will come in as number three with an output of around 240 tonnes," she said.

    South Africa, which produced more than 1000 tonnes of gold in 1970 and for decades was the world's largest producer of the precious metal, is expected to record an output of about 200 tonnes for 2010.

    Standout performers in Australia last year included Newmont Mining Corporation's Boddington mine, south-east of Perth, where output rose by 26,000oz to its highest quarterly figure of 206,000oz.

    Two recently commissioned operations, Integra Mining's Randalls mine and Regis Resources' Moolart Well operation, both in WA, continued to ramp up production, adding another tonne to the total national output, Dr Close said.

    However, output in the December quarter from Barrick Gold's and Newmont's Super Pit at Kalgoorlie fell by 22,000oz.

    The Super Pit still retained its mantle of Australia's largest gold producing mine for 2010, followed closely by Boddington.

    Dr Close warned that Australian miners were increasingly going offshore to countries where exploration was encouraged.

    "We are seeing a disturbing trend on the local front, both for gold and for other minerals," she said.

    "The steady increase in expenditure by Australian listed companies on overseas exploration was becoming more apparent, she said.

    "Less and less of the exploration dollar is being spent in Australia and this may well have a negative impact in the longer term.

    "We can't afford to be complacent just because Australian gold production is on the rise again.

    "Continued exploration is essential to ensure the long-term viability of the industry."