A few more of these kinds of settlements and Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) will be an ever bigger gold producing juggernaut than it already is. The gold miner announced yesterday that it had reached an accord with the Carrizalillo Ejido at its Los Filos project in Mexico, and all operations are back on track.
Coming as it does after Goldcorp won approval for its El Morro mine to move forward in Chile, but also after losing out on acquiring the Canadian Malartic mine in Quebec, this gives the appearance that the miner is focusing its attention once more on the birds it has in hand instead of those that are still in the bush. With gold pricing still relatively weak that's a smart move, since Goldcorp can't afford to allow too many projects to fly off the rails.
The Los Filos mine in Mexico's Guerrero state suspended operations last month following unsuccessful negotiations with the local ejido, who protested that the project was causing contaminated water supplies and shortages and was responsible for premature births and malformations in newborns. After the ejido went on strike to force Goldcorp to recognize their concerns operations were suspended, and the two sides have been in negotiations since.
The mine produced 94,000 ounces of gold in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 1.3% increase from the year ago period and 28% more than Goldcorp produced in the third quarter. Los Filos produced 332,400 ounces across all of 2013 while directly employing more than 2,600 people from the surrounding communities, with an estimated 10,000 additional jobs created as a result of the mine's presence in the region.
As of the end of last year Los Filos had proven and probable reserves of 7.95 million ounces of gold and 54.52 million ounces of silver, which Goldcorp estimated would allow it to produce 330,000 ounces to 345,000 ounces this year. As a result of the closure, though, Goldcorp says it will now likely come in at the low end of that range, but still reiterated its expectation that it will produce between 2.95 million and 3.10 million ounces of gold in 2014.
Goldcorp's El Morro copper and gold mine holds an estimated 8.4 million ounces of gold and 6.1 billion pounds of copper, of which the miner has a 70% share. It's been an on again, off again project because of opposition from indigenous groups, and just the other day got the green light to begin work once more. That one still has a ways to go, though, as the court decision giving Goldcorp permission to move forward will likely be appealed to the supreme court.
Its massive Penasquito mine was also expected to become Mexico's largest open-pit mine, producing as much as 390,000 ounces of gold last year along with 21 million ounces of silver, 305 million pounds of zinc, and 160 million pounds of lead, but it ran into numerous roadblocks from the local Cerro Gordo Ejido, who successfully stripped Goldcorp of its lease only to have the decision overturned. The miner has since been in negotiations to settle the dispute.
While Goldcorp's assets are generally located in politically stable countries, even their policies can cause planning to go awry, such as the windfall tax Mexico imposed on precious metals miners last year. 40% of its proven and probable reserves are in Mexico, which has the potential to become the most expensive country in which it does business.
With Los Filos up and running again, however, it will have a solid producer operational that offers the potential for significant new reserves. Although the attempt to acquire the Canadian Malartic mine was an effort to give it additional quality assets in an even more stable region, tending to the base it's already established, ironing out the differences with the locals where there is contention, and keeping its costs low will go a long way toward ensuring Goldcorp remains a premiere gold miner.
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