IMPROVEMENTS in operational performance at St Barbara Ltd’s Simberi Gold Project resulted in the 5036 ounces of gold produced during September being the highest monthly result since April 2013. This, together with improved mill availability and an increase in ore milled, reflects an engineering and maintenance program being carried out to improve the performance of the processing plant.

The company says the mill throughput increase is encouraging as it has been achieved through improved operating and maintenance practices ahead of capital works planned to commence in November 2014 which are focused on refurbishing the existing ball mill circuit to lift total annual mill production to 3.5 million tonnes. This work was expected to impact production negatively in the December quarter.

Gold production for September quarter was 12,639 ounces, slightly down from the 12,755 ounces produced in the previous quarter.

Total ore mined during the quarter decreased by 19% from the June quarter. This was caused by fleet availability issues and has been addressed by the recruitment of skilled personnel and the purchase of further low-hour second-hand equipment, including two excavators.

In July the rope conveyor was inoperable for 12 days due to a number of issues. The impact on the business was minimized by shifting mining priority to stockpiling, waste removal and processing scats. The use of lower grade scats impacted grade.

The SAG mill and ball mill continued to run in parallel during the quarter, resulting in a 16% increase in ore milled compared to the June quarter.

Total cash operating costs were higher due to the lower grade processed. Unit costs continue to be impacted by lower than break-even production but are expected to fall significantly in the first half of 2015 as production increases.

The company’s managing director and CEO Bob Vassie has completed an extensive on-site review of Simberi operations, confirming that the planned increase in annual production to 100,000 ounces in the June 2015 quarter is achievable.

Aggregate production in the 2015 financial year is expected to be between 70,000 and 80,000 ounces and the project is expected to be cash flow positive during the June 2015 quarter.

Meanwhile, trenching of near-mine oxide targets on the Simberi lease continues to return highly encouraging results, including 10 metres @ 3.4 grams/tonne gold, 25 metres @ 2.6 grams/tonne, 10 metres @ 4.0 grams/tonne, 55 metres @ 1.4 grams/tonne and 20 metres @ 2.5 grams/tonne at Patan.

A near-mine drilling program is also being carried out at Monun Creek on the lease area targeting extensions to oxide mineralization immediately southeast of the Sorowar open pit.

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