Gold Fields Forced to Delay Salares Norte Commissioning

Gold Fields Ltd. reported that its Salares Norte Project in Chile, which is currently 97% complete, with certain sections of the plant already in pre-commissioning, will be delayed due to issues with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the main project contractor. The company said certain components of the plant require commissioning by the OEM to maintain the validity of their warranties. With challenges in securing the OEM reps, due to previously announced delays by the main project contractor, Gold Fields said it expects a 2-month delay in commissioning the mills and filter presses, which would also delay the production of first gold.

While Gold Fields did not name the OEM or the contractor, E&MJ reported in June 2020 that Outotec was awarded a EUR 14 million ($15.9 million) contract to design and deliver one 4-megawatt (MW) SAG mill and one 4-MW ball mill as well as five thickeners and one clarifier to be used in different process phases. In July 2020, E&MJ also reported that Gold Fields selected Fluor to provide comprehensive engineering, procurement and construction management services for the project, which included permanent plant material, tendering, award and post-award services for major construction and primary services contracts, as well as construction management and pre-commissioning support.

Construction on the project began in February 2021. More than 1.6 million metric tons of ore containing 380,000 ounces (oz) of gold have been stockpiled to date. First gold from the project is still expected in the latter part of Q4 2023. If first gold is produced on December 1, 2023, Gold Fields estimates that gold production for 2023 will be 1,000 gold equivalent oz (oz-eq). The company was expecting to produce 15,000 - 20,000 ozeq in 2023. The 2024 production outlook for Salares Norte has also been impacted and is expected to fall in the range of 400,000 to 430,000 oz-eq instead of the previously announced 500,000 oz-eq.

Should the delay last longer, and first gold is not produced until the end of December 2023, production in 2024 is expected to be 350,000 oz-eq. The mishap has also impacted the total project capital estimate, which has now increased by $20 million to $1,040 million due to the capitalization of costs associated with the later commencement date for first gold.

As featured in Womp 2023 Vol 10 -