October 19, 2015 / 7:09 AM / 3 years ago

El Nino halts Papua New Guinea gold mine-Barrick

SYDNEY, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Operations at the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea have been suspended due to drought conditions, part owner Barrick Gold said on Monday, the latest mine in the Asia-Pacific to be disrupted by El Nino-induced dry weather.

Production had been halted due to low levels of water in the mine’s reservoir, used in processing the raw ore, operator Barrick (Niugini) Ltd said in a statement to Reuters.

“Some water-intensive production activities at the mine have been temporarily suspended during this extended dry season, and we are using this opportunity to bring forward some scheduled maintenance activities,” it said.

“The very unusual extended dry conditions that we have seen in recent months have meant that our supplies of production water have run very low, and we have made the decision to shut down our milling and processing plants for the time being to conserve our water supplies.”

Barrick earlier this year forecast Porgera would yield 400,000-450,000 ounces of gold in 2015, down from its peak years of around 900,000 ounces when it was regarded as one of the world’s foremost deposits.

The privately held Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea has been forced to shut after drought cut off river transit links, while in Indonesia Freeport-McMoRan blamed El Nino when it cut its 2015 forecast for copper concentrate sales as less water affected milling.

The dry weather effects of El Nino are strongest in the tropics and peak over the winter months, which have just passed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Barrick and China’s Zijin Mining each own 47.5 percent of the Porgera mine. The rest is divided equally between the government and local landowners in Enga Province in the Highlands region of Papua new Guinea. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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