Globally diversified gold producer Gold Fields has commenced production at its Salares Norte mine in Chile’s Atacama province with the first pour of gold-silver doré.

This marks a significant achievement for the company, which has developed the project from discovery to production over the past 13 years.

Both Circuit A and Circuit B of the processing plant at Salares Norte have been commissioned and are now under the management of the operational team.

The mine’s ramp-up to steady state is under way, with gold equivalent production expected to reach 250koz in 2024 at an all-in cost (AIC) of between $1,790 per equivalent ounce (eq oz) and $1,850/eq oz.

For the year 2025, production volumes are anticipated to increase to 580koz.

In the first five years, the average gold equivalent production is projected to be 485koz annually at an AIC of $790/eq oz.

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Throughout the mine’s lifespan, the annual gold equivalent output is expected to average 360koz at an AIC of $820/eq oz.

The total capital expenditure for Salares Norte is forecasted to align with the guidance of $1.18bn–1.20bn, with $395m already spent during 2023.

The Salares Norte mine is expected to boost Chile’s gold production by 40% and establish the country as a leading gold producer in South America.

It is the first greenfield project in Chile in more than a decade, and is expected to create around 900 permanent jobs and contribute around $800m (780.54m pesos) in direct and indirect taxes over its 11-year life-of-mine.

Gold Fields is investing roughly $30m (R565.24m) annually in exploration activities near the mine, aiming to extend the Salares Norte mine’s lifespan.

Additionally, the mine has been granted a permit to resume the capture and relocation of chinchillas from the areas that will be affected by future mining activities.

Gold Fields CEO Mike Fraser said: “Salares Norte’s construction is credit to the innovation, experience, commitment and persistence of the teams that worked on the project. To build a remote mine at 4,500m above sea level with winter temperatures as low as -20°C and amidst a global pandemic is an incredible feat.

“This is a world-class project with one of the industry’s lower cost profiles and a payback period of less than three years at current gold prices.

“It presents significant growth and value uplift for our portfolio and adds meaningfully to the cash flow profile of Gold Fields over the next few years.”