Barrick reports Dominican Republic progress

As part of Barrick Gold Corp’s June 2021 quarter results, the company reported that it has completed or progressed major capital projects, and its exploration programmes have delivered substantial reserve gains.
Barrick reports Dominican Republic progress Barrick reports Dominican Republic progress Barrick reports Dominican Republic progress Barrick reports Dominican Republic progress Barrick reports Dominican Republic progress

Pueblo Viejo at dusk

 

The stakeholders of the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic, which is a joint venture between Barrick (60%) and Newmont (40%), have agreed to an independent strategic environmental assessment led by the government for the Pueblo Viejo mine life extension and plant expansion project.

Barrick said that the agreement follows over a year of engagement with communities that will be affected, either directly or indirectly, by the proposed facility, adding that it is an important step to beginning fieldwork and moving the permitting process forward. The investigation will run alongside Barrick's own studies on land acquisition and the environment.

This extension project is part of a US$1.3 billion expansion project that Barrick expects will allow it to convert approximately 9Moz of measured and indicated resources to proven and probable reserves, which will extend the mine life to at least 2040 and support production of more than 800,000oz/y of gold. Barrick estimated that the total economic contribution of direct and indirect taxes from Pueblo Viejo to the Dominican government will be over US$9 billion, from the start of commercial production in 2013 through the extended mine life beyond 2040.

The company has also begun working on a local agribusiness development, which it will integrate into the tailings facility, creating a further benefit for the local community. Barrick stated that the previous operator of Pueblo Viejo essentially abandoned the site in 1995 without the appropriate closure procedures, so it has a major problem with water contamination. When Barrick acquired Pueblo Viejo, it began a large clean-up initiative and the water quality at the site now meets regulatory standards.

Barrick also partnered with Vacúnate RD, the Dominican Republic's national vaccination plan, to sponsor transportation for medical teams as well as community mobilisation and engagement efforts to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, noting that a lot of people in the remote communities surrounding Pueblo Viejo could not travel to a vaccination clinic. Over 3,000 families in 25 communities around the mine received the first vaccine dose in two weeks in June.

The new Phase 6 heap leach facility at Barrick's Veladero mine in Argentina has been commissioned on time. In March 2020, the company extended the mine life to 10 years.

Veladero has initiatives to encourage more local women to enter a mining career. An intensive six-month vehicle operator training programme recently began at the mine, and all of the participants are women. The first month consists of in-class lessons on safety, and the following five months focus on on-site practical training with the trucks. Participants will be eligible to apply for full-time jobs at the mine once they have completed the programme.

Barrick said that the updated feasibility study for its Goldrush project in Nevada, US, has confirmed it as a "world-class asset" which meets its investment criteria. The company expects to publish its notice of intent shortly.

The total initial capital for Goldrush is likely to be slightly lower than predicted in the previous study, which estimated it would be approximately US$1 billion.

Mark Bristow, president and chief executive of Barrick Gold, said: "There remains an enormous potential for future improvement in the project economics from those resources not considered in the feasibility study and of course there is Fourmile that lies contiguous to the Goldrush orebody. To put it plainly, the updated study underscores our belief that this is a world-class asset which more than meets our investment criteria."

Also in Nevada, the third shaft at Barrick's Turquoise Ridge mine has been sunk to its final depth. The company broke ground on the headframe foundation for the shaft in September 2018. 

African projects

The third underground mine at Barrick's 80%-owned Loulo-Gounkoto complex in Mali has delivered its first ore. In April, Bristow said that Barrick is considering enlarging the Loulo-Gounkoto gold complex.

The company has entered into an agreement with the country's government to rehabilitate the 136,000ha Fina Reserve, which UNESCO has classed as a biosphere reserve but has been neglected and mismanaged. Barrick will invest US$5 million in the next five years to rehabilitate the park and establish anti-poaching programmes.

Barrick's Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reportedly had a strong start in the March 2021 quarter and it on track to hit its production guidance for the year. Bristow said that the mine is replacing its reserves more quickly than it is mining them, thanks to a successful exploration programme near the mine.

The mine now has a resource base approaching its levels when it first went into production in 2013, meaning that the company expects it to maintain its production rate beyond the 10 years in its current business plan. Since development of the mine began, it has contributed US$3.6 billion to the economy of the DRC. It also has a policy of giving preference to local suppliers and contracts as well as employing local staff - of the 5,341 employees and contractors who were on site at the end of June, 94% of them were Congolese. Protection protocols for Covid-19 have been intensified and there is an ongoing vaccination programme.

Kibali uses energy generated by three hydropower plants, and has a 78% water recycling and re-use rate. The company has a reforestation programme for the land surrounding the mine, planting 6,716 trees in the June quarter. It is also an active supporter of elephant protection and general improvement initiatives at Garamba National Park.

A decade after the Tongon gold mine in Côte d'lvoire went into production, its mine life could be extended due to promising near-mine exploration results. Tongon has filed documentation to extend its Nielle mining licence by another 10 years.

Bristow noted that the mine has been consistently profitable, declaring a US$150 million dividend for 2020 and contributing US$1.77 billion to the Ivorian economy over time. It has also provided electricity access to local villages, built schools and clinics, and employed local contractors and suppliers.

He added: "A longer life for Tongon means that it will be able to continue creating benefits to share with our Ivorian stakeholders for years to come." 

Exploration

Barrick has found success with its ongoing brownfields exploration, which have revealed new satellites and extensions to existing deposits. The exploration programme also indicated that its projects in North America, Africa and the Middle East will more than replace their reserves this year after mining depletion.

The company's greenfields exploration programmes are also targeting new discoveries, and its portfolio has been extended to include prospective new properties in Egypt, Guyana, Japan, Senegal and Tanzania.

Bristow said: "The gold mining industry's chronic tendency to harvest the gold price instead of investing in the future has resulted in declining reserves and a shortage of high-quality development projects. At Barrick, on the other hand, a strong exploration culture combined with its sustainable profitability strategy is expanding its asset base as we look to discover exciting new opportunities."

He noted that the company is constantly driving new prospects into a development and project pipeline. This pipeline already includes Goldrush, Fourmile and Robertson in Nevada as well as Donlin in Alaska and new targets in Africa around Loulo-Gounkoto and Kibali.

"The fact is that the industry has not been replacing what it's been mining," he said. "Barrick, on the other hand, is running its business for the long term instead of focusing on short-term gains and working to extend its resource-based 10-year plans to 15 and even 20 years."

Bristow also noted that Barrick has met and exceeded its environmental targets on recycling water, as well as reducing energy and greenhouse gas intensity and tonne of processed ore.