It’s been a year of significant progress for us as we begin in earnest the strategic journey to regain the cost competitiveness which had been lost in recent years. We delivered several of our strategic objectives in 2022, achieving improvements in production, cash flow and safety, all while holding cost increases at around half the inflation rate. Our geologists again replaced Mineral Reserve depletion.
We embedded the new operating model, which organises our business in a way that empowers our line management and properly locates accountability. It also ensures the right people are in role, reduces waste and duplication, and makes clear the work that needs to be done in service of our strategic goals. This operating model, and the clarity it brings to our employees, forms the central plank of our strategy.
The operating model was complemented by continuing work to better understand and improve the organisational culture, and – after more than 15 years – to update our corporate values. These values are fundamental in guiding how we behave, how we do our work, and how we interact with our colleagues, our environment and our neighbours.
The clarity brought by the new structure contributed to a significant improvement in our operating performance during 2022.
We delivered on our guidance for production, capital expenditure and all-in sustaining cost. Cash costs, marginally above our guidance range, rose only 6% year on year to $1,024/oz. Our ability to limit the cost increase to roughly half the average inflation rate experienced across the business, was the first important step in narrowing the margin gap that had widened to unprecedented levels with our peers in recent years.
Inflation was a hallmark of 2022, driven by soaring prices for staple foods and fuel, as well as a host of other inputs, including labour costs. While the rate of price increases slowed toward the end of the year, inflation is likely to remain a persistent challenge well into 2023, and perhaps beyond. Continued implementation of our Full Potential Programme, a root and branch process to optimise efficiency of our mines and plants, will be vital to ensuring we can counter this upward pressure on costs.
Production rose 11% to 2.742Moz , boosted mainly by our Obuasi Gold Mine in Ghana, which returned to production early in the year after a several month stoppage following the sill pillar collapse in May, 2021. Output from the mine was in line with our forecast at 250,000oz, creating a foundation for its continued ramp up to our target of more than 400,000oz a year by end of 2024. Ensuring this important mine continues to deliver on its significant multi-decade potential – while delivering benefits to its host communities and to the people of Ghana — remains an important part of our overall investment case.
While there were many bright spots in the portfolio, special mention must be made of Geita Gold Mine, in Tanzania, which pairs a world-class orebody with an exceptional team and again exceeded our expectations in returning to production levels of more than 500,000oz. The performance cements its status as a true tier one gold mine. Higher production was also registered across our managed operations, with the exception of AGA Mineração, which suffered the impact of heavy rains and flooding in the first quarter.
We are in the midst of a programme of inward investment to increase Mineral Reserve conversion, extend our Mineral Reserve lives, improve mining flexibility and upgrade knowledge of our orebodies. This focused investment helped us once again to more than replenish our mineral endowment, adding 11.4Moz to our Mineral Resource and 3.5Moz to our Mineral Reserve, pre-depletion.
That’s no flash in the pan. We’ve made cumulative Mineral Reserve additions (pre-depletion) to our inventory over the past three years of 12.2Moz, at a cost of $67/oz. In an industry characterised by often expensive dealmaking to fill project pipelines, our consistent ability to competitively add ounces is an invaluable competitive advantage.
This quality was on clear display in Nevada, where our Mineral Resource position in the rapidly growing Beatty district in Southern Nevada more than doubled to 8.4Moz (including the Corvus Gold and Coeur Sterling acquisitions), with the promise of more to come. We continue to aim for a conclusion to permitting next year and a start to production in around 2025. At this stage we see a multi-decade production base with annual output climbing to 300,000oz by the end of the decade, although we will continue to calibrate those expectations in light of the continued exploration success. Costs will be significantly below our current average.
In Colombia, where our high-grade, long life Quebradona copper and gold discovery remains one of the best of its kind in the industry, we continued the environmental impact assessment work required to resubmit the environmental permit application for the project.
Our guidance for 2023 is partly impacted by the events at Cuiabá, where geotechnical and engineering studies on the Calcinados TSF will provide us with a clearer idea of the time and capital it will take to complete a buttressing programme to raise its post-liquefaction factor of safety to levels comparable with the international standards currently considered best practice – see related Media release. In the meantime, the TSF remains safe and stable with factors of safety – in both a drained and undrained state – which are fully compliant with relevant Brazilian regulations.
While processing of Cuiabá’s concentrate at the Queiroz plant is suspended pending completion of that work, the mine remains active and is expected to produce gravity gold at around 5,000oz a month, and ore in concentrate, at about 10,000oz a month. We are assessing options on concentrate sales and will take a decision based on best value.
Gold production for the rest of the portfolio – excluding Cuiabá — will show modest growth at the midpoint of this year’s guidance of 2.45Moz to 2.61Moz. That increase in production will come mainly from Obuasi as it continues its ramp-up to full production. Total cash costs for the portfolio (excluding Cuiabá) are also expected to edge up by the anticipated inflation rate for this year, between $1,050/oz and $1,120/oz.
All-in sustaining costs are anticipated to be between $1,405/oz and $1,450/oz, as we continue our inward investments in development, waste stripping and brownfields exploration, to improve the flexibility of our mines.
Total capital expenditure, excluding any capital required at Cuiabá, is expected to be between $960m and $1,070m; that includes growth capital of $280m to $310m.
I have been clear since joining AngloGold Ashanti at the end of 2021, that achieving a sustainable turnaround of the Company and narrowing the valuation gap with our peers, would take two to three years. I remain firmly of that view as we enter this transitional year – one in which we will consolidate the learnings from our full asset potential rollout and execute on the opportunities it identified.
We have excellent attributes; a worldclass team, a strong bench of skilled and committed people, a world-class portfolio chock-full of potential, and a robust balance sheet to fund our investments and weather market volatility. We have a clear strategy and full alignment between the Board and the Executive team on how to deliver it.
Our priority now is to deliver on our potential – and to do it safely. That is where our focus lies.
Chief Executive Officer
15 March 2023