A 37.5% owned project, the Alumbrera mining operation is one of the world's largest and lowest-cost gold and copper operations. Since beginning operations in February 1998, Alumbrera has been an important operation during Goldcorp's growth. Today its gold and copper production are significant but declining, for 2012 production is expected at 140,000 ounces of gold and 110 million pounds of copper.
Located in northwestern Argentina, in an area that has been renowned for its veins of copper and gold since at least the 19th century, Alumbrera was the country's largest mining development in the modern era. It commenced commercial production in February 1998. The operation's ownership structure is 50% Xstrata (the operator), 37.5% Goldcorp, and 12.5% Northern Orion.
Productivity of this mining operation is in decline, and because the existing open pit mine dominates the very limited area in which mineral rights are held, further exploration work will be limited. It is possible that additional high-grade mineralization could be delineated down-dip of the confines of current drilling, and this will be investigated.
In 2011, Goldcorp and Xstrata completed an option agreement with Yamana Gold Inc whereby the Alumbrera joint venture would have the exclusive option with respect to acquiring Yamana's 100% Interest in the Agua Rica project located 35 kilometers southeast of the Alumbera mine in the Catamarca province in Northwest Argentina.
This option agreement represents a low-risk opportunity for Goldcorp to participate in the potential of the Agua Rica project and is consistent with our focus on cultivating the early-stage portion of our growth pipeline. We have valued our participation in the successful and productive Alumbrera partnership over the last eight years, and we look forward to exploring the opportunity at Agua Rica with our joint venture partners.
* Due to rounding, numbers may not add up.