South African miner Gold Fields has formally commenced construction of the mining infrastructure at the $860m Salares Norte open-pit gold mine in northern Chile.

The company started pre-stripping of the gold-silver project as well as the construction of the process plant this month.

Construction work on the project is planned to be completed in late 2022, with production planned to start in early 2023.

Once commissioned, the mine will have the capacity to process two million tonnes of ore annually to produce doré gold.

Gold Fields said it has completed nearly 15% of the construction work including the mining camp for accommodating 1,800 people, associated infrastructure, and access roads.

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By GlobalData

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said the firm maintained mine construction schedule despite challenges regarding the safety of its employees and contractors from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Holland said: “The early actions taken in response to the pandemic and our people’s commitment enabled us to navigate the challenges of this unprecedented and highly complex situation and remain on track with the production schedule.”

The Salares Norte project is expected to create nearly 2,700 construction jobs during its peak stage.

Once the mine enters the operational phase, Gold Fields expects to employ around 900 employees and contractors.

Salares Norte project director Max Combes said: “A project like Salares Norte generates a very valuable productive chain in the industry and significant economic opportunities in the region.”

“The project seeks to employ sustainable technologies that reduce its environmental footprint. These include solar PV power and filtered tailings to optimise water use.”

It is situated at a distance of approximately 190km from Diego de Almagro within a core 1,800ha concession area.

Last year, Gold Fields awarded a contract to Fluor to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) management services for the Salares Norte project.