What was the rationale behind the creation of NGM?
In late 2018, merger discussions were held which led to the combination of Barrick and Newmont Nevada assests. The companies had six mines operating in very close proximity in Nevada, with a ‘fence line’ joining Carlin and Goldstrike. They decided to remove this barrier and establish a single management structure across the whole complex.
This JV generated real synergies, including the reduction of administrative costs, the maximization of ore processing and the possibility to access exploration opportunities from the opposite side of the lease. Before the JV, Newmont had significant processing capacity but was running out of ore, while Barrick had abundant ore, but was short on processing capacity. This new structure allowed to move the Cortez ore to Gold Quarry and the Leeville ore to Goldstrike, significantly reducing haulage costs. Overall, this agreement has extended the life of mine and has brought additional ounces into the plants, reducing costs and improving efficiencies.
What have been NGM’s main milestones in the 2020-2021 period?
We have focused on establishing the JV and unifying two different business cultures. We have made substantial efforts to understand the regional geology and we now have a very successful plan to expand our assets. We expect to see good results, particularly from the North Leeville area, which is the extension of the current Leeville underground operations. We are also exploring the geological connection between two Tier One deposits in Turquoise Ridge. Finally, we have identified great growth potential for the Goldrush-Fourmile project. We have also optimized the roaster at Gold Quarry, and to support Barrick and Newmont’s vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have converted our coal power plant into a gas power station and introduced 100 MW of solar power. Another milestone has been to merge of the two companies’ reporting processes and financial packages under SAP.
What is the importance of NGM within Barrick’s portfolio worldwide?
NGM represents roughly 40% of Barrick’s overall gold production, and it produces low-cost ounces that help support its overall sustaining costs. It is also a good training ground for highly skilled technical personnel; employees from different parts of the world can travel to Nevada to learn skills in a very complex system, which they can later apply in their home countries. We currently have a solid five-year plan and a 10-year plan, and are working to have a 15-year plan. Our objective is to produce 3.5 million oz/y for 15 years and beyond.
Can you elaborate on the exploration opportunities for NGM in Nevada?
Nevada has been a mining area for 150 years, but its exploration potential is still remarkable. Barrick’s Goldrush, found about five years ago, is a world-class Tier One asset that will produce over 10 million oz. This asset was only a few miles north of Cortez, another huge gold-producing asset. A few miles further north, Fourmile will be an extension of Goldrush, with the potential to be another Tier One gold asset producing over 10 million oz.
We currently have a great team focusing on brownfield exploration since there are more Tier One assets to be found near our operations. There is great potential opportunity between Cortez and Phoenix through the Shoshone Range area, between the two Tier One deposits in Turquoise Ridge, and in the extension from Leeville up towards Goldstrike. Processing, however, will be challenging since the gold is underground and refractory. From a greenfield perspective, Barrick has a very active exploration team in Nevada. We are also very proactive in establishing partnerships with junior companies, where we usually function as the operating party.
How do you see the evolution of the gold price in the near future?
I think the gold price will remain relatively stable over the next couple of years, being that we still have not seen the end of the impact of Covid-19. Moreover, the fact that many countries, including the US, are printing money is putting a lot of pressure on financial institutions.
What are the main pros and cons of operating in Nevada, and can you highlight some of NGM’s social initiatives?
Nevada is a stable environment, both politically and socially. However, the infrastructure is not at the standard it should be, especially in northern Nevada. A poor education system and a lack of affordable healthcare, internet and day-care facilities make it hard to attract quality employees, which is why we have over 500 job vacancies within NGM currently, of which 200 are professionals.
We believe that the mining industry can be the catalyst for change in our society as long as we collaborate with the government, communities, and private partners. To address some of the challenges, NGM has donated US$3 million to the Boys & Girls Club to construct day-care facilities in Elko and Spring Creek (our local communities). We have also invested in the Discovery Education Experience, an online learning tool to assist parents, teachers and students with remote learning. To date 100% of schools in Nevada have utilized the Discovery Education resource! Another measure involved lending US$30 million to an internet provider to set up high-speed broadband services throughout Elko and Spring Creek. We also invested US$5 million to start the I-80 Fund, which provides small businesses and start-ups the opportunity to secure low interest loans in an effort to build north-eastern Nevada.