Gold Fields says new Chile mine on track as profit dips

By Felix Njini

(Reuters) -Gold Fields said on Thursday it was on track to start producing gold at its Salares Norte project in Chile in the fourth quarter of this year, after reporting lower half-year profit on higher costs.

Like its Johannesburg-based rival AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields has shifted focus away from home country to focus to more lucrative mines in Ghana, Australia and the Americas region.

“We are on track to pour the first gold in quarter four,” Martin Preece, the interim chief executive for the Johannesburg-based miner told Reuters in an interview.

The start of the Salares Norte project in Chile is key to Gold Fields raising its output to about 2.8 million ounces by 2025 from about 2.3 million ounces currently.

The new project is also part of the company’s strategy to expand in the Americas region where it owns a mine in Peru and is jointly developing a new project in Canada.

Gold Fields also said it was embarking on a plan to improve the efficiency of its mines and lower costs amid persistent inflationary pressures.

“We firmly believe that the best place we can find another mine is within our current mines.”

Gold Fields is likely to appoint a permanent CEO between September and October, Preece, who is also interested in the role, said.

“The board has asked me to put my name into the hat and am going through the same process as the external candidates,” Preece said.

“I have full confidence that the board will make the right decision that’s in the best interest of our shareholders,” he added.

The company also said its CFO Paul Schmidt was retiring.

Gold Fields’ profit in the six months through June dipped 12%. Its headline earnings per share fell to $0.51 in the six months to June 30, from $0.58 a year earlier.

(Reporting by Felix Njini and Nelson Banya; Editing by Tom Hogue, Rashmi Aich and Tomasz Janowski)