Blanket Mine production up 10%

HARARE – Gold production at Blanket Mine (Blanket) increased by 10,7 percent to 11 592 ounces in the second quarter compared with 10 472 ounces in the first quarter this year, the company announced on Tuesday.

The total for the first half of 2013 was 22 064 ounces, up 6,5 percent on the same period last year.

Blanket, which is 49 percent owned by Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Caledonia Mining Company (Caledonia), is among the top 10 gold producers in the country.

Stefan Hayden, Caledonia’s president and chief executive believes the Gwanda-based Blanket Mine will deliver 40 000 ounces of the precious metal in 2013 — and Tuesday’s figures represent a good start.

“The gold production for the Quarter is subject to minor revisions following the receipt of final assays for the last two deliveries to the refinery,” he said.

Although cash operating costs for the second quarter were unknown, they were $669 an ounce in the first quarter and $605 in the final three months of 2012.

Industry experts say even at the higher number, Blanket remains an incredibly robust project, particularly in the current environment for gold.

Early this year Caledonia said it would invest about $37 million in Blanket between 2013 and 2017 and planned to increase output at the mine by 90 percent to 76 000 ounces per year of gold by 2016, up from the 40 000 ounces targeted for 2013.

The Africa focused mining and exploration company said it would invest an additional $4,7 million in normal planned capital expenditure  towards the sustenance  of mining operations, increasing production  and  for conducting exploration.

To increase available ore, Caledonia would conduct down-dip exploration and development of the Blanket Mine, as well as explore and develop the mine’s satellite properties, three of which — GG, Mascot and Eagle Vulture were currently undergoing exploration and underground development work.

The eventual rate of production from the satellite properties would be determined by the success of on-going exploration and mining development work.

Development of the existing ore resources above and below the current lowest mining level of 750m had already started and expected to produce an additional 36 000 ounces of gold per year by 2016.

The first additional 12 000 ounces per year of gold would be delivered in the first quarter of 2014 through the further development of the Blanket mine above the 750m level.

The realisation of the remaining 24 000 ounces per year would start in the fourth quarter of 2015, following the deepening of the number 6 Winze project at the mine to the 1 080m level to allow more access to the Blanket orebody below the 750m level.

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