CALEDONIA Mining Corporation says it expects gold production at its Banket Mine to marginally increase by about 1% to 56 000 ounces this year buoyed by the improved operational performance and the current firm gold prices.

Last year the company produced about 55 182 ounces of gold, 10% ahead of its targeted production of between 53 000 and 56 000 ounces. Approximately 16 876 ounces of gold were produced during the last quarter of 2019, exceeding the previous production record of 16 425 ounces set in the final quarter of 2017.

Production in the quarter was 24% higher than the previous quarter and 13% higher than the corresponding final quarter of 2018.

The company said all production figures were expressed on a 100% basis and were based on mine production data and therefore subject to adjustment following final assay at the refiners.

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Caledonia chief executive officer Steve Curtis said he was pleased to see that “we have not lost this momentum as we start 2020 with the mine continuing to perform very well into the new year.”

“With the improved operational performance and the current buoyant gold prices leading to healthy operating margins, we expect Caledonia to continue its track record of strong cash generation,” he said.

“I expect 2020 to be a landmark year for our business: We look forward to commissioning the central shaft later in 2020, which we anticipate will then deliver increased operating cash flows and reduced capital expenditure will follow.”

Caledonia invested about US$44 million into its central shaft at Blanket Mine to be commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Curtis said an improvement in electricity supply and vigilant focus on grade control and production, have resulted in an excellent production result for the final quarter.

He said the impressive operational turnaround was achieved without any compromises on safety, a commendable achievement given the distractions posed by the challenging conditions experienced by the workers due to the economic environment in Zimbabwe.

In early January 2020, Caledonia announced a 9,1% increase in its quarterly dividend.