JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Gold and copper mining company Barrick has taken the lead in integrating the various aspects of environmental, social and governance (ESG) to ensure holistic and objective measurement, Barrick CEO Dr Mark Bristow stated on Monday, when the New York- and Toronto-listed company reported strong second-quarter operating performance that generated $169-million free cash.
Barrick has launched a sustainability-linked credit facility, progressed its Scope 3 emissions reduction roadmap, received an award for the best community health outreach programme at North Mara mine in Tanzania, completed public hearings for Pueblo Viejo’s new tailings storage facility, and improved year-on-year water reuse and recycling.
Bristow highlighted critical ESG scrutiny and sustainability disclosures as intensifying in a climate of scepticism about ‘greenwashing’.
Reviewing the quarter, which supported an unchanged dividend payout of $0.20 a share, Bristow said that Barrick’s annual industry-first sustainability scorecard continued to report the group’s performance transparently against a wide range of standard metrics, enabling the company to take the ESG lead.
“There are challenging times ahead, but Barrick faces them with strong and agile leadership, a robust balance sheet, solid life-of-mine plans, reliable cash flow and a strategy focused on sustainability and value creation,” added Bristow in a release to Mining Weekly.
A stronger second-quarter performance across the portfolio has kept Barrick on course to achieve its yearly gold and copper production guidance while continuing to progress its key growth projects.
Better-than-first-quarter gold production of 1.04-million ounces – driven by Carlin and Turquoise Ridge in the US, Veladero in Argentina, and Bulyanhulu and North Mara in Tanzania – is expected to grow further in the second half of the year. Copper production came in at 120-million pounds and the copper portfolio is delivering with growing prospectivity.
During the quarter, $182-million in shares were repurchased and remaining Kibali gold mine surplus cash repatriated from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gold and copper production guidance remains and growth projects progressed, including the Pueblo Viejo expansion project in the Dominican Republic, which has the potential to extend mine life beyond 2040, with an average production of 800 000 oz/y.
In Nevada, the Goldrush production timetable is expected to be confirmed in the first half of 2023, while in Pakistan, finalisation of the Reko Diq project agreements are under way on what is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper/gold deposits, with first production expected in 2027/28.
“On the back of our strong operating performance, we are once again able to provide a leading dividend yield to our shareholders, whilst still maintaining a strong balance sheet,” said CFO Graham Shuttleworth.
“We believe this continues to show the benefit of the dividend policy that we announced in February 2022, including the guidance it provides to our shareholders on future dividend streams,” added Shuttleworth.
Barrick is continuing to expand its global exploration footprint with a strengthened team. In North America, the search has extended from Nevada to Canada. The intensified exploration drive in Latin America has led to an entry into the Guiana Shield. In Africa and the Middle East, new projects have been initiated in Zambia, Tanzania and Egypt and the new Asia Pacific exploration team is making progress in Japan.
“Our geological teams now have strength in depth and we’re building a pipeline of high-potential managers and technical specialists. The highly experienced new appointees are already driving significant change and this renewed energy and focus is already delivering robust results,” said Bristow.
The Tanzanian government has recognised Barrick as its largest 2021 revenue contributor. Since taking control of North Mara and Bulyanhulu in September 2019, in-country investment has totalled $1.995-billion.
In the first half of this year, it has paid $158-million in taxes, royalties and levies, $42-million in distributions to the Tanzanian government in the form of dividends and shareholder loans as well as $210-million to local suppliers. It has also now paid $140-million of its $300-million settlement with the government.
“When we took over these mines they were a moribund burden on the government and their investors. In a very short time, we redesigned and re-engineered them, creating what are in effect two new mines. They are well placed to deliver their annual production guidance and have the potential to achieve a combined Tier One status in Barrick’s portfolio, meaning that they are capable of producing at least 500 000 oz of gold annually for more than 10 years at the lower end of the cost spectrum as a combined complex,” said Bristow.
Bulyanhulu now has a life of more than 20 years and continues to deliver significant growth in reserves over and above depletion. Development of its new Deep West extension is scheduled to start this quarter. North Mara’s openpit has been ramped up and the new Gena pushback is planned for the second half of the year. An investment of $65-million in water treatment and management has reduced the volume in North Mara’s tailings dam from seven-million m3 to less than 800 000 m3, returning it to its designed and legislated capacity.
In line with Barrick’s policy of local employment, Tanzanian nationals now account for 96% of the two mines’ workforces and 64% of their senior management are Tanzanians. The mines are also driving the increased employment of women in a traditionally male-dominated industry through targeted recruitment and development programmes.
The Kibali gold mine’s investment in the Democratic Republic of Congo now exceeds $4-billion and it has created a thriving regional economy in a remote part of the country through partnering with and mentoring local entrepreneurs, uplifting host communities and upgrading essential infrastructure.
Kibali is also a global leader in automation, sustainability initiatives, clean energy and skills training.
Local employment has resulted in 94% of Kibali’s workforce, including its management, being Congolese nationals.
Kibali’s gold reserves have grown net of depletion for three successive years, and ongoing conversion drilling is expected to continue this trend, despite producing in excess of 5.7-million ounces of gold to date. Ongoing exploration is delivering new growth opportunities with the potential to grow the mineral resource base beyond the original feasibility study.