Centerra Gold Inc. [CG-TSX; CAGDF-OTC] has halted open pit operations at its Kumtor Mine in the Kyrgyz Republic after two employees went missing following a significant rock movement in the Lysii Waste Rock Dump early on the morning of December 1, 2019.
Kumtor said it initiated an emergency evacuation of all mine personnel from the area and an immediate cessation of mining operations. It said two Kumtor employees who were working in the area did not report to the emergency gathering area and remain missing.
“Centerra’s first priority at this time is to locate the missing employees through a search and rescue operation which began immediately and is ongoing in cooperation with the Kyrgyz Republic Ministry of Emergencies,” the company said in a press release. Centerra has also notified all relevant government authorities and the families of the missing employees, it said.
The Kumptor Mine is one of two flagship assets in the Centerra Gold portfolio. The other is the Mt. Milligan Mine in central British Columbia. The company’s portfolio also includes the Oksut Gold Project in Turkey and the late stage Kemess development project in northern B.C.
“Our primary focus right now remains on the safe return of our two missing employees and the safety of our search and rescue teams who are working in very challenging circumstances,” said Centerra President and CEO Scott Perry.
“While the search continues, we are co-ordinating closely with the family members of the missing employees and our thoughts and support are with the families, the search and rescue teams, as well as the entire Kumtor team,” he said.
While open pit mining operations have been temporarily halted the mine plan is being re-evaluated. The company will not be in a position to make any comments about the re-start of open pit mining operations until the search and rescue efforts have been completed and a revised mine plan has been developed.
Meanwhile, the Kumtor mill is expected to continue uninterrupted processing ore that has been stockpiled on surface and there is no change to the company’s production outlook for 2019.
Centerra shares eased on the news, falling 15.3% or $1.74 to $9.62 on volume of 1.23 million. The shares trade in a 52-week range of $5.28 and $13.
Kumtor is the largest gold mine operated in Central Asia by a Western-based company. Mining operations are carried out using conventional open-it mining methods.
Higher grades and recoveries at Kumtor and higher gold grades at Mt. Milligan enabled Centerra to produce a better than expected 206,000 ounces of gold and 21.2 million pounds of copper in the third quarter of 2019. That includes 150,305 ounces from Kumtor and 55,355 ounces from Mt. Milligan.
Centerra recently raised its 2019 gold production guidance to 730,000-765,000 ounces from an earlier forecast of 705,000-750,000 ounces.
The company said construction at the Oksut Project in Turkey is now 79% complete and remains on scheduled with the first gold pour expected in January of 2020.