Yamana Ready to Strike Gold at Cerro Moro

Even in the face of falling gold prices, Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY  ) is ready to invest upward of $450 million in its Argentinean gold and silver project Cerro Moro, with an eye toward beginning production in late 2015.

Yamana gained possession of Cerro Moro when it acquired junior miner Extorre Gold last year for $400 million. At the time the project had some 1.36 million ounces of gold equivalent indicated mineral resources and 1.05 million ounces of inferred mineral resources. However, subsequent drilling enabled Yamana to locate new veins earlier this year, increasing its mineral resources by 44%.

Cerro Moro was always considered an exceptional project because of its rich mineralization and high grades, as well as being located in the mining-friendly state of Santa Cruz. The combination underground mine and open pit operation may be an even better opportunity beyond what was already a pretty impressive advanced development project..

According to Argentina's mining secretary, Yamana presented plans to the government Cabinet indicating construction is expected to start in early 2014, with production slated to follow late in 2015. Cerro Moro is expected to produce 1,000 tonnes per day, with annual production of approximately 200,000 gold equivalent ounces. 

Like Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX  ) , Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC  ) , and other miners, Yamana remains under intense pressure to reduce costs. Its reported profits tumbled 28% in the third quarter as it realized gold prices of $1,332 per ounce, down from $1,680 last year. However, as a result of cost-cutting measures implemented after its second quarter report, byproduct all-in sustaining cash costs were $730 per GEO, a 20% reduction from second-quarter costs and well below its target of $850 an ounce. The all-in sustaining cost is a relatively new metric miners are using to capture all the costs associated with a project.

Barrick shelved its Pascua-Lama project in Chile as delays kept running up the cost of the effort even as the miner tries to contain expenses to reduce its heavy debt load. Kinross saw earnings plunge 80% last quarter as it undertook a round of layoffs, eliminating 1,000 jobs from its 9,000-employee workforce. It also cut capital expenditures budget this year to about $1.4 billion, and will slash them further next year to a range of about $800 million-$900 million.

Although Kinross witnessed a similar reduction in the realized price of gold, the miner saw its byproduct all-in sustaining cash costs widen to $1,069 an ounce from $1,021 a year ago, due in part to lower silver revenue, as well as increased production costs.

With Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM  ) forced to put its Conga project in Peru on ice, Anglo American dropping participation in the Pebble copper-gold mine in Alaska, and Goldcorp (NYSE: GG  ) running aground at El Morro in Chile, Yamana once again looks to be one of the strongest, best positioned miners in the industry. 

At $1,232 an ounce today, gold is set to close out the year at a loss for the first time in 13 years. I remain confident the structural inequities global financiers have built into their economic systems present a long-term bullish case for gold, and with Cerro Moro promising a rich vein to tap, Yamana Gold will be a prime beneficiary of those forces in due time.

With its stock losing half its value this year, if you're a gold bull, you'll want to have Yamana as part of your portfolio.

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