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AngloGold reaffirms commitment to Australia, on the hunt for exploration deals

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. has no plans to back out of Australia in the same fashion as other larger producers have done and is looking to strike more deals to encourage greenfields gold exploration in the country.

"Some of the larger producers have been actually withdrawing from Australia, that's not our intention," Senior Vice President Australia Mike Erickson told reporters Aug. 9 on the sidelines of the Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie, Australia. "We've got a real commitment in Australia."

In October 2016, AngloGold struck a deal to earn up to a 70% stake in ASX-listed Saracen Mineral Holdings Ltd.'s Butcher Well and Lake Carey tenements, which are located near the company's Sunrise Dam gold mine.

"We're excited by the joint venture with Saracen across the lake from Sunrise Dam," Erickson said. "We'd be keen to do more of that. So we are certainly looking in the neighborhood for appropriate deals."

According to Erickson, while AngloGold has a "modest" greenfields exploration budget in Australia, it still accounts for over 30% of the global spend on greenfields exploration in the country.

The company spends about US$10.0 million each year on greenfields exploration and over US$35.0 million each year on brownfields exploration around its mines.

AngloGold is working to expand its Australian operations and has lifted the throughput at the Tropicana processing plant to 7.5 million tonnes per annum from nameplate capacity of 5.5 Mtpa.

The aim is to further boost throughput to between 7.6 Mtpa and 7.7 Mtpa by end of this year with the addition of a fines pulping system. A feasibility study is also underway on the addition of a second ball mill to lift throughput to between 8.0 Mtpa and 8.2 Mtpa.

AngloGold expects production from Tropicana, which is a 70/30 joint venture with Independence Group NL, to increase to between 450,000 and 490,000 ounces per annum from the second half of this year, rising to over 500,000 ounces in 2018 and 2019 on a 100% basis.

The mine, which came into production in September 2013, has so far produced close to 1.5 million ounces.

Vice President Corporate Affairs, Community & HR Andrea Maxey told delegates at Diggers & Dealers that the mine is on track to more than double its original reserve base. "The Long Island project … has the potential to increase mine life by 10 years from where we are today," she said.

The Long Island project involves a series of large cutbacks to the pits using low-cost mining options including strip mining and backfilling to minimize waste haulage costs.

In late 2016, AngloGold announced it increased reserves at Tropicana by 45%, or 1.18 million ounces, following 161,000 meters of reverse circulation and diamond drilling to test the strike extent and down-dip extensions.