Production from the SA gold operations for Q3 2021 increased by 2% to 9,137kg (293,761oz) compared with Q3 2020). Gold production excluding DRDGOLD, increased by 3% to 7,688kg (247,175oz), with Beatrix mainly responsible for the increase. Underground tonnes milled increased by 22% from Q3 2020 which had been impacted by a slow build-up post COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
Surface tonnes milled decreased by 5% year-on-year with significantly lower tonnages treated at Beatrix and Kloof. Underground yields decreased by 12% year-on-year in line with the increase in throughput as the operational mix normalised from a specific focus on higher grade panels for Q3 2020, as mining crews returned from COVID-19 lockdowns.
Total gold sold increased by 4% to 9,069kg (291,575oz) and excluding DRDGOLD the gold sold of 7,641kg (245,664oz) is 6% higher than for the same period in 2020 with 665kg (21,380oz) (2020: 338kg (10,867oz)) of unsold gold at the end of the current financial period.
AISC increased by 11% to R796,008/kg (US$1,692/oz) reflecting normalisation of operations with a significant increase in stoping and development rates compared with Q3 2020, when available crews were specifically deployed to stoping areas. AISC excluding DRDGOLD increased by 10% to R822,144/kg (US$1,748/oz) compared to Q3 2020. The increase was mainly due to the 14% increase in working cost and 64% increase in stay-in-business (SIB) capital, partly offset by a 4% increase in gold sold.
Capital expenditure (excluding DRDGOLD) increased by 48% to R1,076 million (US$74 million) compared to the same period in 2020. This was primarily due to a 38% increase in ORD (R199 million (US$14 million)) as the operations returning to normal production levels after the COVID-19 lockdown and some catchup in development to restore flexibility that was lost in 2020 with development meters 28% higher year-on-year.
Underground production from the Driefontein operation increased by 2% to 2,470kg (79,412oz) compared to the same period in 2020. Although the underground throughput increased significantly, this was offset by a normalisation of underground grades from the focus on high grade stopes during the phased production build up in 2020. AISC for Q3 2021 increased by 7% to R790,669/kg (US$1,681/oz) mainly due to a 9% increase in working cost and 45% increase in capital expenditure, partly offset by a 7% increase in gold sold.
Underground production from the Kloof operation decreased by 3% to 2,801kg (90,054oz) despite a 4% increase in tonnes milled, with higher throughput offset by lower grades as explained above. Surface production for the Kloof operation decreased by 45% to 253kg (8,134oz) due to ongoing depletion of the available surface reserves. AISC for Q3 2021 increased by 18% to R848,444/kg (US$1,804/oz) compared to the same period in 2020. The increase in unit cost is mainly due to the 10% decrease in gold sold together with the 4% increase in working cost and 31% increase in capital expenditure.
Underground production of 1,777kg (57,132oz) from the Beatrix operation was 35% higher year-on-year, with a 55% increase in throughput offset by a 13% decline in underground grade as a result of a change in focus from higher grade stopes during Q3 2020. Gold production from surface sources decreased by 53% to 30kg (965oz) as a result of depletion of higher grade sources. AISC for Q3 2021 decreased by 3% to R825,593/kg (US$1,755/oz) compared to the same period in 2020 primarily due to the increase in gold sold, which offset increased costs.
No underground production took place in 2021 from the Cooke operations. Surface gold production decreased by 12% to 290kg (9,324oz) due to lower throughput. Third party material continues to be toll treated at both the Cooke and Ezulwini plants. Care and maintenance cost at Cooke operations decreased by R9 million (US$1 million) to R154 million (US$11 million) due to lower infrastructure maintenance requirements.
DRDGOLD surface tonnes milled increased by 2% year-on-year, but due to a 7% decrease in grade, gold production of 1,449kg (46,586oz) was, 4% lower than for Q3 2020. AISC of R649,860/kg (US$1,382/oz) increased by 10% year-on-year.