London — AngloGold Ashanti has suspended operations at the world's deepest gold mine, Mponeng in South Africa, after having identified 164 positive cases of coronavirus, the majority of which were asymptomatic.
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"As a precautionary step, and after discussions with the regulator, operations at Mponeng Mine – which were running at 50% capacity -- have been temporarily halted on a voluntary basis, to complete contact tracing and to again deep clean and sanitize the workplace and key infrastructure," the company said in a statement late Sunday.
"All positive cases will be isolated in line with national health protocols, with on-site facilities available for those who may need them."
In terms of a clearer timeline in South Africa on the easing of the lockdown, on Sunday South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said mining operations were to be permitted to ramp up to full capacity from June 1.
On May 11, AngloGold, the world's third-largest gold producer, lost production totaling 11,000 oz in the first quarter because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company has operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Tanzania, the Americas and Australia.
Mponeng produced 49,000 oz at a total cash cost of $1,087/oz in Q1 compared with 53,000 oz at a total cash cost of $1,073/oz a year earlier, it said.
AngloGold withdrew its annual guidance on March 27, citing uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
The guidance had previously been set at 3.05 million-3.3 million oz at an all-in sustaining cost of $1,040-$1,100/oz.
In February, South African gold miner Harmony Gold entered into a definitive agreement to buy AngloGold Ashanti's South African business, Mponeng and Mine Waste Solutions, for about $300 million, including $200 million in cash payable at closing, expected by June 30.