DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Vancouver-based PLACER DOME expects to make a development decision by mid-2005 on the Pueblo Viejo gold project in the Dominican Republic, said spokesperson Meghan Brown. The company is still working on the metallurgical options to treat the ore and until it nails down a proven process, it cannot start the detailed engineering work needed for a full feasibility study, she pointed out.
"It is a complex orebody and so there are challenges," she said, adding that the Dominican Republic's government chose Placer Dome to take on Pueblo Viejo because of its "skills and expertise" in the area.
Placer Dome had hoped to make a feasibility study decision by the end of last year and a development decision by end-2004, the company said when releasing its third quarter results last October. Brown said Pueblo Viejo continues to look "promising" and more details would be released along with the company's 2003 results in February.
Located in the central region of the Caribbean country, Pueblo Viejo is considered one of the largest gold deposits in Latin America with a resource of 16 million oz grading 3.3g/t Au, 0.7% Zn and 20 g/t Ag using a cut-off grade of 2.0 g/t Au, according to a previously-released estimate from Placer Dome. The Dominican Republic government has put the potentially-exploitable sulphide resource at more than 14 million oz Au over a 33-year mine life, or some 420,000 oz yearly.
The Dominican Republic government operated the mine for 20 years but closed it in 1999 after exhausting the oxide portion of the deposit and facing environmental and processing problems related to the sulphide portion.
Under the concession agreement granted in July 2002, Placer Dome has four years to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the project, during which time it must spend US$10 million. After reaching the agreement, the company put Pueblo Viejo on fast track with the aim of cutting the timeframe to two years.