Gold mining group Barrick Gold’s North Mara and Bulyanhulu gold mines, in Tanzania, have both been declared as tier-one assets, Barrick said in a statement on January 25.
A tier one gold asset has a reserve potential to deliver a minimum ten-year life, production of at least 500 000 oz/y of gold and total cash costs per ounce over the mine life that are in the lower half of the industry cost curve.
Both mines were in a state of decline when Barrick took over their management two years ago. However, the mines have turned a corner, managing to deliver a combined production of more than 500 000 oz in 2021, thereby meeting a key criterion for their inclusion in the company’s elite tier-one portfolio.
The company said North Mara was on track to become a fully integrated mine following the planned commissioning of the Nyabirama pit during the first quarter and the scheduled start of the Nyabigena pit in the third quarter of this year. These developments were expected to add substantial resources and increased flexibility to the mine’s plan.
Meanwhile, Bulyanhulu has been re-established as a world-class, low-cost, long-life underground mine. These claims are attributed to the mine achieving steady state production on the successful ramp-up of its mining and metallurgical operations in December 2021.
Barrick said both mines were expected to report a significant growth of their mineral reserves, net of depletion, for 2021.
The group increased its footprint around Bulyanhulu through the acquisition of six highly prospective licences bordering the mine. Additionally, Barrick’s exploration teams were looking elsewhere in Tanzania for new opportunities, the group said.
Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow said the two mines’ performance had been supported by reinforced Covid-19 protocols and the roll-out of vaccines to its workforce, 26.45% of whom were partially vaccinated and 20.25% who were fully vaccinated.
He said Barrick was working closely with Tanzanian health authorities to supply four polymerase chain reaction – or PCR – machines to hospitals around the mines.
The two mines also continued to recruit and upskill local people, he added. Tanzanian nationals now account for 96% of their workforce, with 41% drawn from the surrounding villages.
He said the mines were also strengthening their partnerships with local suppliers. Since Barrick re-entered Tanzania in 2019, it has spent more than $1.8-billion in taxes, salaries and payments to local businesses. It has also invested $6.7-million in community education, health and infrastructure projects.
Referring to Barrick’s recently published Human Rights Report, Bristow said the environmental and other issues it had inherited from the mines’ previous operators were either already settled or were in the process of being addressed.
He highlighted the completion of the restoration of North Mara’s tailings facility pond to within its permitted design capacity as an example of this. The rehabilitated facility was complemented by the installation of a new high-recovery water treatment plant.
The within-guidance performance at the two gold mines was achieved with both mines retaining their ISO 45001 safety and ISO 14001 environmental accreditations.