Australian Gold Production on Way Up Again


". . .firming gold prices might encourage more exploration for gold in Australia. . ."

Australia's annual gold production is set to rise for the first time in 12 years in 2009 as new mines start up and existing operations expand in response to the precious metal's price soaring towards $1,000 an ounce.

The country's output of the precious metal rose 3% in the first quarter this year from the same quarter a year earlier to 54.5 tons or 1.75 million ounces, gold industry consultancy firm Surbiton Associates said in a report released Sunday.

Although first quarter output was little changed from the December quarter, Surbiton said production should rise through the remainder of the year, barring any unforeseen mine closures.

It did not give a forecast production figure for 2009 but said it should exceed the 219 tons produced in 2008.

On Friday, the gold price rose to a three-month high, trading around $966 an ounce, as the dollar weakened against the euro amid fears over rising U.S. government debt.

Surbiton director Sandra Close said firming gold prices might encourage more exploration for gold in Australia, setting the scene for further production expansion.

In recent years China's rising gold output has knocked Australia out of the world's top-three gold producers. Last year Australia was fourth, behind China with 282 tons, the United States with 229 tons and South Africa with 220 tons.

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