What did Barrick’s Q3 2021 results show you about progress made since the Randgold merger?
A lot has happened since January 2019. After the Barrick/Randgold merger, Nevada Gold Mines (NGM) was established, we took Acacia private, and sold Sabodala to Teranga (before the Endeavour merger). From the initial discussions with John Thornton in 2015 we had a strategic plan based upon flattening the structure and focusing on the Randgold model whereby the operations own the orebodies, have a responsibility to unlock their value, and importantly, are able to respond quickly to changes.
Barrick’s Q3 results show that we have been able to deliver on our strategy of focusing on the best assets, fixing the balance sheet and ensuring our social license to operate, even though the environment changed around us. I honestly believe we are going into an unprecedented and critical time for the global economy. If we have a challenging next seven years, like we had from 1992 to 1999, Barrick will still do well because we are fundamentally profitable. We run our business on US$1,200/oz gold and have a significant amount of net cash. This makes us independent of the market and means the responsibility of creating value sits with management.
Another key aspect highlighted in Q3 was Barrick’s focus on exploration. We replaced more than 70% of the gold we have mined in the last two years, and in 2021 we will replace all the gold we mined. Our pipeline, whether it’s the work we are doing in the Veladero Pascua-Lama region, advancing Donlin Gold in Alaska, or the various frontiers that we have opened such as Egypt, Japan and Guyana, means the company’s future is in good shape.
How has the Nevada Gold Mines (NGM) joint venture between Barrick and Newmont developed?
The trajectory was downwards for both companies in Nevada before the merger. Newmont had very little resource potential left, but had infrastructure which was significant for Barrick because it was geographically in the right place. Barrick had high quality assets, but infrastructure in the wrong place. By establishing NGM, we turned it into a genuine, long term, value creating mining enterprise. It is a sustainably profitable business that has become Barrick’s value foundation.
One thing that Nevada didn’t lack was asset quality. Carlin, the biggest gold mining operation in the world at around 1.7 million oz/y, has measured resources of over 9 million oz, or 25 million tonnes at 7.5 to 12 g/t. The North Leeville area is showing great exploration potential, up towards Goldstrike. We are upgrading the Gold Quarry roaster, we have invigorated Robertson, and we have linked the future of Cortez with Goldrush and Fourmile. We also had another look at some of the other assets, such as Turquoise Ridge, which was previously constrained as a high-grade mine with a contractual bottleneck dictating what it could feed the processing facility. Before the JV, it was mining small volumes at high cost, but now we are seeing the benefit of removing the boundaries and unleashing the mine’s potential. Seeing this transformation brought home to me the mindless egos that stop the ability to unlock value in the mining industry, and is a clear example of why the sector needs consolidation.
Which educational initiatives has Barrick established in Nevada to increase participation in the sector?
I am a great believer in recognizing your host country as your core stakeholder, and investing in a young, local workforce is a big part of Barrick’s strategy. When we created NGM, one of the first things we noted was the wrong age profile of the workforce. We had also noticed a big gap for reaching the children who wanted to have technical careers. At the start of the Covid pandemic, we began a program to enable every single teacher in Nevada to teach virtually, and sponsored an educational program with the Discovery Channel for schools in the state. We are now working with the College of Southern Nevada and Great Basin College in Elko, linking the technical colleges from the last two years of high school to the beginning of university. Barrick was the only mining company in the US that continued its student programs throughout Covid.