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With advice of a US engineering company, South Africa's Gold Fields is looking for ways to speed up the drying of the tailings dam at its Cerro Corona mine in Peru to increase the life of the operation by about two years.
"There are several technologies in the market to accelerate drying and thereby gain space to place more tailings in the current dam," said Gold Fields' executive VP for the Americas, Luis Rivera.
Cerro Corona is in Cajamarca region in northern Peru and also produces copper concentrates.
In a virtual conference during the Encuentros Empresariales 2021 event organized by the Institute of Mining Engineers of Peru, Rivera said the mine life could be extended until 2032.
The company expects to announce more details by the end of the year.
Gold Fields is also looking for options to process the mine's tailings and extract the gold and copper they contain.
Last year the open pit mine produced 119,000oz of gold and 25,000t of copper.
According to Rivera, the company expects operating expenses of US$170mn and capex of US$70mn at the mine in 2021.
Of the capex, US$20mn will go to the Cerro Corona expansion project.
Gold Fields is also looking for options to implement conveyor belts to extract ore from a pit with subvertical walls and underground mining is not ruled out in the future.
Rivera added that exploration is continuing in southern Peru, and there are good prospects for the Soledad project, owned by Chakana Resources, in which Gold Fields has a stake.
Soledad is expected to be a high-grade underground mine, although it may also have open pit potential in some areas, he said.
The Gold Fields executive said that despite the political problems that Peru has, it remains an attractive country to invest in.
"Politics in Peru is always noisy," Rivera said."Even with leaders who can make radical speeches, there are constitutional checks and balances that protect the investor and the population in general."
According to Rivera, regardless of who governs Peru from July 28, when the new president takes office for a five-year term, any constitutional change will take time and demand consensus.
Rivera said whoever wins must promote the mining sector and especially exploration.
In the June 6 runoff, Peruvians will choose between leftist candidate Pedro Castillo and conservative Keiko Fujimori.