Guyana set to get its first underground gold mine

A Canadian miner running one of the hemisphere’s largest gold mines, is getting ready to open the Caribbean Community’s first major underground mine similar to those in operation in South Africa, Chile and other major world mining destinations officials said this week.

Toronto, Canada-based Guyana Goldfields said it had originally planned to convert its current open pit mines in Guyana’s western Cuyuni Region in 2022 to underground operations but feasibility studies have been so promising that tonnes of shiny gold could be extracted from the bowels of its Aroura Mine as early as 2020, the same year a consortium led by American oil giant ExxonMobil is to begin producing offshore oil. The area is close to the border with Venezuela. The company produced 160,000 troy ounces of gold last year and plans to produce at least 10 percent more in 2018.

“The studies are looking real good. We will be releasing them by the end of the month and we will be using our own money to develop this mine,” Chief Executive Scott Caldwell said. “Our future is going to be in an underground mine. We are very excited about this development.”

Such a venture could keep the company in Guyana for decades more. The life of its current open pit mine should last until around 2030, producing more than 3 million ounces over the period Caldwell said.

Most mines in the country, including those being run by Perth, Australia-based Troy Resources are open pit operations where the top soils are removed to recover gold from ore. Caldwell said the much deeper underground mines have no top soils to scrape off so gold is cheaper to extract and profits are higher as less heavy duty equipment is needed.

An additional 150 permanent employees would be added to the payroll in addition to the more than 650 members of staff at its Guyana operations. Gold is the country’s leading export sector, bringing in nearly US$1 billion last year. Total industry production is billed at 800,000 troy ounces this year.

The only problem is, Caldwell said, that Guyana has had little experience with underground or tract mining as a small operation had closed back in the 1940s. This will be the first major such operation when it gets rolling.

Mass training in this area is expected to be ramped up.

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