MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Newmont Corp (NEM.N) is looking to restart in as soon as days some of the four Canadian and South American gold mines that it shut last month to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Chief Executive Tom Palmer said on Friday.
The world’s biggest gold miner wound down operations at its Yanacocha mine in Peru in mid-March and a week later placed two more mines in Canada and one in Argentina on care and maintenance as it sought to safe-guard the health of its workers and comply with government regulations.
The move, which impacted its Musselwhite operations in northern Ontario, and Eléonore mine in Quebec as well as Cerro Negro in Argentina, came as it withdrew its full-year guidance and said some production could be deferred into 2021.
On April 4 the company said it would scale back operations at its Penasquito gold mine in Mexico.
But as the coronavirus shows signs of peaking, and authorities in Buenos Aires and Quebec City have lifted restrictions around mining which they have deemed as an “essential service”, Newmont is looking to a phased restart, Palmer said.
“I would expect we would be able to bring operations that have been on care and maintenance back into some level of production,” Palmer told Reuters by phone from Perth.
“In those countries where restrictions have been lifted... it is days or weeks,” he said, without specifying how long other mines may take to restart.
The novel coronavirus has impacted miners globally as governments have shut down borders and transport and mandated people stay at home to curb the spread of the virus that has infected more than 2 million and killed over 143,000, according to a Reuters tally.
Palmer also said that discussions were continuing with all levels of government as well as local communities in countries “to ensure we can demonstrate that we can maintain through our protocols the health and safety of everyone involved”.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who imposed a country-wide lockdown in mid-March, has moved to put mining on a list of essential sectors, although the virus has snarled transport and miners’ logistics.
Canada’s Quebec province announced on Monday it would redesignate mining an essential service starting on Wednesday while in northern Ontario mining is already seen as essential.
In Peru, which imposed a national state of emergency in mid-March, the Antamina copper mine controlled by BHP (BHP.AX) and Glencore (GLEN.L) said on Monday that it would halt all operations for at least two weeks to stem the spread of the virus.
Palmer said Newmont was in talks with governments including in Peru and Mexico, about the importance of mining to the economy and communities.
(This story corrects last name of CEO throughout.)
Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise