JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Nevada is like the Witwatersrand of the 1970s, says new Barrick Gold president and CEO Dr Mark Bristow, whose Randgold Resources is now merged into Barrick to form the world’s biggest gold mining company, which is also an extractor of copper, a metal that Bristow sees as “another gold”.
The brand new Goldrush-Fourmile discovery, which extends the footprint within Cortez district in Nevada in the US, is already at 12-million ounces at over 10 g/t.
“I reckon that will go over 20-million ounces and that’s an 8-km-long deposit,” South African-born Bristow tells Mining Weekly Online.
And then there is Turquoise Ridge, which is the richest gold mine in the world at 15 g/t.
Barrick Nevada is an integrated gold mining operation that combines the Cortez and Goldstrike properties in Nevada, employing 3 000 employees and 800 contractors.
Operations at Cortez are split between two complexes, the Pipeline opencast mine complex and Cortez Hills, which has both opencast and underground activity. Goldstrike consists of the Betze-Post openpit, and the Meikle and Rodeo underground mines.
“Nevada’s just a fascinating place. It’s a world-class business. You’ll see our guidance for this year is slightly up on the cost because one of the big super pits come to an end this year. We knew about it. The rest of the assets, of which there are two world-class assets and two in the making . . . they’ll all meet tier-one definition and their production is increasing, and their cost is coming down," Bristow points out.
Barrick has unitised Nevada into a single complex, similar to the former Randgold’s Loulo-Gounkoto complex in Mali.
“Barrick has a huge exploration portfolio and again Nevada on its own is just such an exciting area. Bringing real exploration back into Nevada is a super exciting prospect and Barrick's got the best ground available,” Bristow adds.
Veladero in Argentina will need his attention. The operation’s year-on-year production decreased by 13% on lower head grade and fewer tonnes processed, owing to delays in the development of the Phase 5 openpit.
But still, it has six years of life at 500 000 oz/y. “So that’s our big challenge to see how we can drag it back to ten-year life,” says Bristow.
A big plus for the company is tier-one Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic, where a completed scoping study supports the expansion of what is already a large opencast gold mine and where the Barrick team has come up with some new ideas.
Scoping studies and pilot project work are supportive of a plant expansion that could increase throughput by roughly 50% to 12-million tonnes a year.
“We reckon we’ll be able to deliver 800 000 oz a year out middle 2030s,” said Bristow. Full-year all-in sustaining costs at Pueblo Viejo were $632/oz.
He describes copper, which Barrick also mines, as being a "very strategic metal", more so, in his view, than many of the battery metals that are currently receiving such a lot of publicity.
In Africa, Kibali in the Democratic Republic of Congo had a stellar year, Loulo-Gounkoto in Mali delivered well, and Tongon in Ivory Coast came back quickly after its strike challenges.
“We’re fixing Lumwana in Zambia. We’ve engaged positively with the government there. We spent a lot of time rebuilding what we believe in, as far as the licence to operate is concerned, and we’ve made good progress in facilitating the way forward for Acacia Mining in Tanzania. I’ve got no doubt that we’ll get that sorted out,” he says.
“I don’t have any real scorpions to deal with. I’ve got some realisation of some of the noncore assets and again I’m not going to be doing that by public auction. I’ve got a full inbox of interested parties and I’m going to deal with that on the side,” he says.
He has been to all the operations a couple of times already and is impressed with the opportunities presented by the El Indio trend in Chile and Argentina, where Barrick has Alturas in the Andes mountains, which is already at eight-million ounces.
“The geology is just amazing and Peru is the same. It’s got such real opportunities and Barrick has been so focused on trying to reduce its debt so all that stopped. We’re busy re-employing and staffing up for not only a more geocentric mining operation but also reenergising our exploration effort into South America,” he says, adding that he is “absolutely loving” his new challenge and the opportunity to prove to the market that “you can modernise this industry, make it more relevant in everyday life and actually create some value for its various stakeholders”.