Costs at Mexican gold mines fall on zinc rally

By
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Higher zinc and lead prices helped reduce production costs at Mexico's gold mines in last year's third quarter.

Cash costs at the country's five lowest-cost operations averaged US$300/oz, a drop from US$456/oz in the same quarter last year, according to BNamericas calculations.

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The drop reflected declines of around US$600 at the two lowest-cost operations, in part due to higher industrial metal by-product credits.

By contrast, the other three lowest-cost mines - all operated by Agnico Eagle Mines - saw cash costs rise.

Mines operated by Fresnillo were excluded as the company reports production costs every six months.

LOW COST GOLD MINES - Q3

1. Peñasquito: cash cost negative US$168/oz

Goldcorp's Zacatecas state mine (pictured) was Mexico's lowest-cost gold producer by a wide margin in Q317, and the only operation with negative cash costs.

Cash costs fell by US$591 from positive US$423/oz in 3Q16 due to higher gold, silver, lead and zinc production, resulting from higher grades, throughput and recoveries.

Zinc and silver sold increased by 27% and 10%, respectively, to 92.4Mlb (about 42,000t) and 36.2Mlb. Zinc was trading around US$1.30/lb (US$2,866/t) during the quarter, up from about US$1.05/lb in 3Q16, with lead up around US$0.20 to US$1.00-1.10/lb.

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2. El Águila: US$2/oz

Gold Resource's Oaxaca state mine was another operation to benefit from higher lead and zinc prices, with cash costs dropping from US$623/oz.

The mine produced 4,326t zinc, up from 2,480t, with lead output at 1,389t, up from 893t, and copper at 328t, up from 200t, while prices of all three metals rose.

The gains were partly offset by lower gold and silver production and prices.

3. Pinos Altos: US$376/oz

Agnico Eagle's biggest Mexican mine saw a marginal increase in cash costs from US$376/oz, due to lower gold output and reduced by-product revenue.

4. Creston Mascota: US$632/oz

Creston Mascota, a satellite operation at Agnico Eagle's Pinos Altos mine in Chihuahua state, saw cash cost increase from US$493/oz on lower gold production and higher contractor costs.

5. La India: US$657/oz

Cash costs at Agnico Eagle's newest Mexican gold mine increased from US$400/oz on the back of lower gold production and grades, lower by-product revenue and higher contractor costs.

OTHER MINES

Premier Gold Mines' Mercedes operation and Argonaut Gold's La Colorada, which were among the lowest-cost gold mines in 2Q17, did not feature on the third quarter list as cash costs rose above US$700/oz.

McEwen Mining's El Gallo gold mine saw cash costs increase to US$832/oz from US$598/oz in 3Q16, as output was hit by a mechanical failure.