Production at Rio Tinto’s Murowa diamond mine is expected to start in the third quarter of this year. In its report for the year ending December, the mining giant says Rio Tinto plc had approved a loan of US$13.5 million for the accelerated Murowa production project, but the loan was still subject to Reserve Bank approval at the time of reporting.
The company said although its gold production had dropped by a third, its revenue had improved from $4.9 billion to $32.9 billion.
Operating profit rose from $777 million to $8.5 billion while net profit soared from $582 million to $5.9 billion.
It produced 26 211 ounces of gold last year down from 38 017 ounces in 2002. Patchway which had produced 7 312 ounces in 2002 was sold in August last year after it had produced 2 069 ounces.
Production at Renco dropped from30 705 ounces to 24 142 ounces.
The company says, it had, however, managed to negotiate to be paid $60 000 per gramme, the price that was paid to small-scale gold producers. Previously it was getting $10 000 a gramme.
Nickel production dropped slightly from 6 412 tonnes to 6 198 tonnes. There was a steady supply of matte in the second half.
Operations were, however, affected by intermittent supplies of power. The plant was also damaged on 26 December after a windstorm. The plant was offline for two days.
The company said it spent $331 million on exploration but this had largely been wound up by the end of the year.
Its main concern was the continued use of the exchange rate of $824 to the greenback and the enforced payment of ZESA bills in foreign currency.
“Despite some positive changes to the national economic situation,” it says, “these two items remain as constraints which are felt by all exporters and must be addressed by the authorities before the country’s foreign currency earnings are severely reduced.”