Mother lodes are the stuff of legend. The Mount Morgan gold mine in Queensland, Australia, yielded yellow stuff for about 100 years. South Dakota's Homestake mine produced riches for more than 125 years. Geologists just don't seem to be finding lodes of that scale anymore, which simply heightens the significance of the larger mines still out there.
Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) exceeded production expectations for the third quarter at its notable mother lode: the Yanacocha mine. A joint venture with Peru's Buenaventura (NYSE: BVN ) , this 27.5 million-ounce mine produced 225,000 ounces of gold in the third quarter, as a recent mill expansion bore golden fruit.
Elsewhere, Newmont is targeting a mid-2009 start-up for the Boddington mine in Western Australia with partner AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE: AU ) . Sporting 11.1 million ounces of gold reserves and a billion pounds of copper to boot, Newmont sees Boddington as the "future cornerstone" of its Asia-Pacific operations. This will be Newmont's next mother lode, and Fools would do well to consider the bargain-basement prices for which a stake in that lode is available.
As Newmont reported earnings Wednesday that essentially matched analyst expectations, and reaffirmed its 2008 guidance, I wonder how many paused to consider that Newmont shares presently trade about $10 per share below their most recent five-year low. In October 2003, when gold traded for less than $400 per ounce, Newmont shares sold for almost $15 more than they do today. Of course, the cost of production per ounce of gold was also much lower then, compared with the $480 per ounce cost reported for the latest quarter.
This Fool has already offered 700 billion reasons why gold will ultimately move substantially higher. This week, both Newmont and Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) made the case even stronger. Both companies expressed a commitment to fiscal conservatism in light of economic uncertainty, and both indicated they may defer or delay some projects as a result. If the top dogs in gold mining begin delaying projects, especially with physical markets already tight, I believe the price of gold will go higher in the long run.
Newmont remains my favorite pick among the major miners, and at these prices, I perceive a substantial margin of safety. Still, I continue to favor the high-cash flow, low-cost kings of the intermediate miners, like Agnico-Eagle (NYSE: AEM ) and Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) .