The Company reported solid operational and financial performances for 2020, with progress made in delivering on strategic commitments, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of the year, AngloGold Ashanti outlined a series of important objectives as it sought to streamline the business, further strengthen its balance sheet, improve the overall quality of its portfolio, increase the lives of its key assets and ensure improved direct returns to its shareholders.
AngloGold Ashanti demonstrated its ability to balance the competing capital needs of the business while delivering improved value to shareholders. Progress was made on each of these objectives, with the increased investment in its ore bodies yielding net increases in Ore Reserve and Mineral Resource of continuing operations; the redevelopment of the Obuasi mine tracking to its revised schedule; the portfolio streamlined following the sale of operating assets in South Africa and Mali; the balance sheet further strengthened with debt at its lowest levels in a decade and a marked improvement in cash generation; and feasibility studies for two Colombian projects progressing to schedule ahead of investment decisions in 2021.
The improved performance of the business, coupled with a higher dividend payout ratio, ensured a fivefold increase in the annual dividend payment for 2020. The Company achieved all of these strategic milestones without approaching shareholders for new equity in the last decade.
Net cash inflow from operating activities for the year increased by 58% to $1,654m in 2020 compared to $1,047m in 2019. Free cash flow for the year improved by 485% to $743m in 2020 compared to $127m in the prior year, primarily driven by the increase in received gold prices.
Production for 2020 decreased by 7%, mainly due to the sale of our remaining South African producing assets, the cessation of mining activities at Sadiola and Morila in Mali, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group’s AISC came in at $1,059/oz in 2020, compared with $998/oz in 2019.
The COVID-19 impact on production in 2020 was estimated at 140,000oz or 5% and its impact on AISC was estimated at $55/oz or 5%. Production from continuing operations for 2020 was 2.806Moz at a total cash cost of $790/oz, compared with 2.862Moz at a total cash cost of $746/oz in 2019.
AISC for these continuing operations was $1,037/oz in 2020, compared with $978/oz in 2019. On a continuing operations basis, the impact on production from COVID-19 in 2020 was estimated at 59,000oz or 2% and its impact on AISC was estimated at $32/oz or 3%.
The performance for the year was underpinned by Geita’s highest annual production level in 15 years, while steady performances at Kibali, Iduapriem, Siguiri, Sunrise Dam, and AGA Mineração helped offset declines in production at Tropicana, Cerro Vanguardia and Serra Grande.
The Obuasi Redevelopment Project continued its ramp-up, delivering 127,000oz in production despite delays in receiving equipment and in the arrival of skilled personnel, critical to the project, as a result of lockdowns in various jurisdictions during the year.
The higher gold price helped drive the improved financial performance year-on-year. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Adjusted EBITDA) rose 50% year-on-year to $2,593m in 2020, from $1,723m in 2019.
Basic earnings attributable to equity shareholders for the year ended 31 December 2020 were $953m, compared with a $12m loss in 2019. Basic earnings for the continuing business for the year ended 31 December 2020 were $946m, compared with $364m in 2019.
Headline earnings for the year ended 31 December 2020 were $1,000m, compared with $379m in 2019. Headline earnings benefitted from the higher gold price net of increased profit-related taxes. In line with the capital allocation discipline strategy, the Company has demonstrated its ability to balance the competing capital needs of the business while delivering improved dividends to shareholders.