South African Miner Gold Fields has delayed the start of first gold production at its Salares Norte project in Chile again, citing delays in pre-commissioning and commissioning activities.

First production is now expected to begin by April, the company said in a press statement, adding that production volumes for 2024 have been revised down and are now expected to fall within a range of 220,000–250,000 gold-equivalent ounces.

Steady monthly state production is still expected to be reached by the beginning of next year. Predicted production volumes for 2025 and 2026 remain unchanged at approximately 600,000 gold-equivalent ounces per year, Gold Fields said.

Construction of the $1bn open-pit mine site, which began in January 2021, is now almost complete more than one year on from the original deadline. Various technical and environmental setbacks including the removal and relocation of a group of critically endangered chinchillas living in the area have hindered progress. The mine’s initial environmental licence depended partly on finding a way to safely remove the animals.

Production was initially set to begin in early 2023 but ongoing delays have caused the company to miss a series of deadlines, the most recent being set for December.

The company said that it missed its most recent deadline because of additional work needed on “critical safety” aspects relating to certain elements of the mine’s circuits, workforce availability and late-stage configuration changes requested by equipment manufacturers.

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By GlobalData

Detailed guidance for the project’s ten-year life-of-mine production volumes and all-in-costs, the revised capital cost and any feedback from the independent review and verification process will be provided with the company’s full-year results for 2023 in February.

Chile, the world’s biggest copper producer and second-biggest lithium producer after Australia, is only the 23rd biggest producer of gold globally, according to data from the World Gold Council.