SYDNEY, June 16 Australia's gold output fell 5 percent in the first quarter on weather-related disruption and a weaker currency would likely have cushioned a sharper fall in the current quarter when the metal's price plunged, a consultant said.
Output at the world's no. 2 gold producer after China fell to 63.5 tonnes in the first quarter from 67 tonnes in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the latest Gold Quarterly Review by Surbiton Associates.
The decline equates to around $170 million worth of gold based on the current bullion price.
"It's the shortest quarter of the year and also covers the Christmas and New Year holiday period, said Surbiton's managing director, Sandra Close. "In addition, there was the usual dislocation due to wet weather from summer cyclones."
Parts of Western Australia state, where roughly 80 percent of Australia's gold is mined, recorded one its wettest first quarters in decades in 2013.
Close said the big drop in bullion prices since April did not necessarily point to further falls in production in the current quarter despite signs some miners were cutting back.
Between April 10-16 the gold price dropped $195 per ounce to $1,380, sending some Australian mines into the red.
"Despite the sharp fall in early April, currently the local gold price is not as dramatically down as some would suggest," Close said.
The Australian dollar has lost as much as 10 percent of its value since April 10, lifting the value of bullion locally.
"At the current exchange rate the Australian dollar gold price is around the A$1,450 per ounce mark, making the decline since early April only about A$60 per ounce, or some 4 percent," Close said.
Alacer Gold Corp said this week it will try and sell two higher-cost mines in Australia that have been struggling under weaker bullion prices.
"At any particular time, there will be operations that are doing extremely well, those that are OK and some that are marginal and struggling," Close said. "Obviously the most vulnerable and those least prepared will be most affected by events such as a fall in price."