Mining major Barrick Gold is building its future around its existing big operations.
But the five-million-ounce-a-year Canadian miner, which is already on the ground in all the world's major gold destinations other than Russia and East Europe, is also looking to new horizons.
“We’re looking at a future built around our existing operations in Central, East and West Africa, in Nevada, the world’s most prolific goldfield, in the massively underexplored Dominican Republic, and along the Andean trend,” CEO Mark Bristow said on Wednesday.
Brownfield exploration around Barrick’s existing operations last year replaced all the reserves depleted by mining and at a higher grade. The company, which has reinstated geology as the flywheel of its engine, is looking for a similar performance this year, he said on a conference call.
But Bristow added that the group’s generator teams were also looking further afield for its next tier-one and tier-two discoveries and that it was extending its horizons to Saudi Arabia, Asia and the Pacific Rim.
Earlier this year, Barrick formed an alliance with the holder of the largest exploration portfolio in Japan, TSX-V-listed Japan Gold.
“What is particularly interesting to us is that while Japan hosts one of the world’s highest-grade gold mines, it has seen no modern exploration."
Regardless of new discoveries, organic growth from its existing asset base — which includes six tier-one gold mines — would sustain Barrick’s ten-year plan that projects production could be sustained at about five-million ounces of gold. A tier-one gold mine is one which has a life of at least ten years and producing more than 500 000 oz/y of gold in the lower half of the industry cost range.
“As a geology-centric organisation, we understand that major discoveries are increasingly rare,” said executive VP exploration and growth Rob Krcmarov. “What is required now is a much deeper geological insight at both the orebody and district level.”
During the first quarter, significant advances have been made on three projects. At Turquoise Ridge in Nevada, upgrading the geological understanding has identified multiple targets, including open-ended mineralisation and untested structural intersections in favourable host rock below the mine. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, new trends that have emerged in the central and northern parts of the Kibali permit have shown the potential for high grade mineralisation. In Tanzania, a full relog and remodel of the Gokona/Nyabigena deposit has materially changed the understanding of the controls on mineralisation, leading to the identification of multiple open targets with the potential to grow the resources beyond depletion for the foreseeable future.
TIME TO REINVENT
Meanwhile, the mining industry is also entering new frontiers as the world continues to battle coronavirus.
“Our mining industry needs reshaping, reinvention, revitalisation and definitely modernisation. This is a great opportunity to reposition ourselves," Bristow said.
The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the contribution that mining makes to its host communities. He said it has been “absolutely impressive” to see the work and outreach that mining has brought to communities, especially in emerging markets, during the pandemic.
“I think it is time for miners to stand up, share and advertise the partnerships that we do build, the difference that we make and the value we create across the world.”
Bristow said that there was every reason to believe the world was going to be a different place after the pandemic, but the gold mining CEO also said that it would bring opportunities.
New frontiers, however, do not seem to extend to celestial horizons.
When asked if Barrick had noted the US government’s proposed legal blueprint for mining on the moon, Bristow responded with a chuckle. “We do not plan to go to the moon at the moment. Not as gold miners and copper miners.”