PERTH -

Key shareholder Newmont Mining Corporation - set to become full owner - told the Paydirt Australian Gold Conference in Perth that the start up of Boddington, 130 kilometres south east of Perth, would be the biggest thing for Newmont this year.

Boddington was a blueprint for more than a decade, due in part to a three-sided ownership that was not always cordial and some troughs for the gold price that tested nerves on this massive, low grade mine. Another bugbear in recent years was Australia's chronic shortage of skilled people until the meltdown of financial and commodities markets

Newmont's acting regional group executive for Asia Pacific, Philip Stephenson, said the project, costing $US2.9 billion to develop, was now about 89% complete.

We are targeting annual production of one million ounces for each of Boddington's first five years. When it is in full production, Boddington will be the largest gold mine in Australia, Stephenson said.

The mine's costs applicable to sales will be around $US300 an ounce and that puts Boddington into the bottom quartile of the global cost curve.

Strategically for Newmont, Boddington coming on line will improve Newmont's overall global geo-political risk profile as it delivers greater exposure to an AAA-rated country.

Boddington has a projected mine life of 20 plus years. It has current total reserves of 20 million oz and rising.

Stephenson said Boddington has the largest reserve base of all gold projects in production or about to go into production in A-rated countries or better, and will be an important asset for many years to come, Mr Stephenson said.

The deal on Newmont taking out the remaining 33% share held by AngloGold Ashanti should be concluded in the next two months. Australian miner Newcrest Mining Ltd had exited the joint venture several years ago.

Newmont had come into the project through the takeover of then Australia's leading gold miner Normandy Mining Ltd, while AngloGold Ashanti gained entry through its takeover of Acacia Resources Ltd.