Monday, August 17, 2009

New Crest hopes to start mining 170,000 tonnes of Tungsten in next few years = 6% of worlds known Tungsten resources

GOLDMINER Newcrest has delivered a better than expected full-year profit as a $30 million insurance payment cut damages costs from the Varanus Island gas explosion off the West Australian coast last year.

The Melbourne-based company, which is the third-biggest Australian miner after BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, said underlying full-year profit came in at $483.1 million.

That was a 2 per cent drop from the previous year, due to increased costs, but was $10m to $20m higher than expectations.

Newcrest said costs from the explosion at Varanus Island, which supplies gas to its Telfer goldmine, would only be $8.6m after an insurance payout eased the $38.6m cost of paying for replacement gas and diesel power. Reportable profit hit a record $248m, up 85 per cent following Newcrest's close-out of its gold hedge, which limited accounting losses.

The company also surprised with a 15c a share dividend, which most analysts had not expected.

Managing director Ian Smith said the company's gearing fell from 8 per cent to 2 per cent, largely due to equity raisings earlier this year, and the miner was in a position to make acquisitions if they arose.

The company had looked at a number of acquisitions and signed a number of confidentiality agreements, he said, but nothing was in the pipeline.

Newcrest has two teams working on potential acquisitions -- one that looks at early stage projects in which Newcrest could take control of exploration, and another to look at more mature projects.

The company's strategy with more mature projects is to get involved if it can see opportunities that had not previously been understood.

"We haven't found anything that stacks up," Mr Smith said yesterday. At the same time, Newcrest released the maiden resource for its O'Callaghans tungsten deposit, about 10km from the big Telfer gold mine in Western Australia's Pilbara.

The deposit, where Newcrest hopes to start mining in two to three years, contains inferred resources of 170,000 tonnes of tungsten, 160,000 tonnes of copper, 460,000 tonnes of zinc and 230,000 tonnes of lead.

Mr Smith said there had been a lot of interest in the deposit, which contained up to 6 per cent of the world's known tungsten resources. The company is looking at selling the deposit and will work out a mine plan, and whether to sell, over the next 12 months. Even if the deposit is sold, it is likely the ore will be processed at the Telfer mill, which could result in a fall in gold production.

Newcrest restated 2010 production guidance of 1.81 to 1.91 million ounces of gold and 83,000 to 87,000 tonnes of copper.

Revenue increased from $2.36billion to $2.53bn, boosted by an increase in the gold price.

The company sliced labour costs by 8.8 per cent to $85.4m in the second half.

Total gold reserves rose 7 per cent year on year to 42.8 million ounces and copper reserves increased 13 per cent to 4.67 million tons. Newcrest shares rose 50c to $29.65 yesterday.

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