Gold Fields Ltd ADR Earnings Call Insights: Chucapaca Options and Heap Leach Tuck-In Rates

Gold Fields Ltd ADR (NYSE:GFI) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Chucapaca Options

Patrick Chidley – HSBC: First question goes on Chucapaca. Just a little follow-up there on what the options might be. Can you remind us what the grade of the previous plan was going to be in terms of the larger open pit and then can you maybe outline how big the higher grade area might be – could be underground mineable and just bit more detail about what might happen there?

Nicholas J Holland – CEO: The grade on the gold equivalent basis because there is little bit of copper and silver in the deposit. There is about 1.8 grams – ton gold, bearing in mind that we had round about 7.6 million ounces there. So, what we are looking at, within that envelope there are some high grade sections within that ore body and we are looking at seeing whether we could develop a much higher grade than that underground operation. But we are still modeling that work at the moment so we don’t have the final results of that, but I guess we should be finished with that analysis in about three month period from here and then we will assess whether in fact that still works taking into account we still have enabling capital on the site and there is other capital and whether, in fact, this operation can support what would be a significantly lower volume operation that what we were contemplating in the feasibility study. The feasibility study, Patrick, was contemplated about 30,000 ton a day plant. So, this would be a lot lower than that, but obviously much higher grade and whether or not this is going to translate into a viable project, but all the technicals, it’s too early, I’m afraid to give you a view on that. But you’d be looking at much, much high grade than what I have given you there for the original study.

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Patrick Chidley – HSBC: So, that’s possible to actually drill down to just a smaller resource as much higher grade. I don’t know underground mineable grades, let’s say?

Nicholas J Holland – CEO: Yeah. Technically, it could be possible. Now whether or not this is going to be economic, we still have to see. But technically, we are stress testing it. We may have to do some more drilling to firm that up because I think we need a resolution of drilling, particularly on the high grade areas and we are doing all that work and that might be the start of a modular process where we start that and then we graduate to something bigger over time. The other thing is there are other ore bodies in the area of interest that we might look at and there is another interesting exploration play within 2 kilometers of what is actually (indiscernible). We refer to (indiscernible) as Chucapaca, but Chucapaca has actually got about four to five targets and there is another target that we’re looking at drilling, which may also provide some additional flexibility. So, there is number of options here, but I can’t give you any guarantee that we will be successful at this stage on any of them…

Patrick Chidley – HSBC: Just the order, is it refractory or?

Nicholas J Holland – CEO: No, there is an element of that there and that’s why we have to support it through two stage processing. It’s got copper. It’s got silver. So recoveries are not easy, you don’t get sort of 90%, 95% recoveries, you’re getting much lower recoveries because of their fracture nature of the ore body. So those make it somewhat more complex together with the fact that the material is quite hard to dip. So the processing is complex, we have to float first of all and then we have to process the gold in residue through a CIO, so we actually recover gold and concentrate full memory, recovery gold and CIO. So both of us is complex and we’ll have to look at that too.

Patrick Chidley – HSBC: Final question is just on regional consolidation opportunities. Are you considering any sort of consolidation deals maybe around your current operations?

Nicholas J Holland – CEO: I think one always is looking for opportunities for consolidation if it makes sense. Again, it’s always down to whether you can get to a sensible deal with the vendors. I think with the tightness in the gold market and balance sheets under pressure, funding drying up. I think people will be more amenable to that as time goes by, but we’ll see. You got to be opportunistic with these things and there is no guarantee.

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Heap Leach Tuck-In Rates

Igor Gladyr – BMO Capital Markets: I have a few operations related questions. The first one is on Tarkwa. Was the closure of your South heap leach operations, how should we think about the expected heap leach tuck-in rates going forward?

Nicholas J Holland – CEO: Well, I think you should look at the historical rates that we had on the north facilities at least for the next year or so and that means that we are stacking up the order about 8 million tons a year. We believe that we can continue to do that. On the North heaps, the South heaps were much smaller than that. So, 8 million tons will go through the heaps going forward and we will still be putting about 12 million tons through these CIL plant and we will certainly be doing that for 2013, 2014. We are looking at different options of processing in the future. We’d be considering whether we move to another CIL plant at this stage that work is been concluded and we continue to evaluate those options. For 2013, that’s what you should be thinking about…

Igor Gladyr – BMO Capital Markets: And just moving on to South Deep, just as the operation ramps up to full capacity in 2016 what sort of tonnages and grades can we expect between sort of in 2013 through 2015?

Nicholas J Holland – CEO: Well, I think, you’ve got to basically look at the steep build up in 2014 and ’15 between where we are now. We’ve set guidance this year is going to be around 315,000 ounces for this year. And the year thereafter we will have fairly significant increase and then have a big increase in 2015. So, you should probably be looking at a linear relationship between what we are saying this year and 2016. That’s probably the best way to characterize it. Tons this year we are looking to average reef tons each month of somewhere round about 170,000 reef tons a month for this year and next year that will average over 200,000 reef tons and for 2016, you’ll get up to 330,000 reef tons and the grade at full production, we are looking at round about 5.3 grams a ton – 5.3 to 5.4 grams of ton, depending on we were on the ore body over time and special compliance to where you are. So, that’s what you’d be looking at full production in 2016.

Igor Gladyr – BMO Capital Markets: Just on Agnew sort of what’s the expected milling and grade – milling in grade ahead of plans for lower tonnage and higher grades?

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Nicholas J Holland – CEO: Yeah, we are drilling about 60,000 tons a month – 50,000 to 60,000 tons a month outsource Agnew because now we’re only mining the high-grade Kim Lode so that’s round about 9 grams of ton and that’s about what you can expect going forward. We pull back all the other mining. So, this is quite a nice little gem to have. Although it’s getting deeper, we get on to run about 900 meters. It’s a high-grade ore body, fairly low cost. So, you’re looking here at a mine that is going to be cheaper operations in the Group with that kind of profile.