Gold Refinery gold shavings. Picture: AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE
Gold Refinery gold shavings. Picture: AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE

London — Swiss gold refiner Valcambi has lost a contract to refine about four-million ounces of gold a year from Newmont Mining, one of the world's biggest producers, five sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

US-based Newmont put the contract up for tender in 2018 and has split the business between three of Valcambi's rivals — Asahi in the US and Argor-Heraeus and Pamp in Switzerland, the sources said.

"It all went up for tender and different refineries won different pieces [of the contract]," said one source.

Valcambi, Argor-Heraeus, Pamp, Asahi and Newmont all declined to comment.

Valcambi is the world's largest gold refinery and had processed almost all of Newmont's gold output for about 15 years, the sources said. Newmont owned a majority stake in Valcambi until 2015 when it sold the shares to India's Rajesh Exports.

The sources said Newmont would send gold from its mines in the US to Asahi and material from mines in Peru and Ghana to either Pamp or Argor-Heraeus.

Newmont also operates mines in Suriname and Australia, and in total produces about five-million ounces, or 155 tonnes, of gold a year — more than 4% of global mine production and enough on its own to fill the capacity of a medium-sized refinery.

Competition has pushed refining charges down sharply in recent years, and sources said rates for the Newmont deal could range from 30 US cents an ounce to as little 5c an ounce — translating to revenue of between $200,000 and $1.2m a year for four-million ounces.

To boost revenue, refiners are increasingly making money out of products such as coins and jewellery parts for which they can charge more.

Newmont is set to overtake Barrick Gold as the world's largest gold producer in 2019 when it acquires rival Goldcorp.