Barrick Gold eyes more copper assets in Africa
The company changed its mind after President Hakainde Hichilema won a landslide victory in last year’s elections, pledging to drive growth and restore relations with mining companies.
“He’s a breath of fresh air,” Barrick chief executive Mark Bristow said after meeting Hichilema on Monday at the Indaba mining conference taking place this week in South Africa. “Zambia is a good story.”
The miner is also on the hunt for copper projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has its giant Kibali gold mine, although Bristow is an outspoken and frequent critic of the country’s government and its 2018 mining code review.
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But Barrick knows the value of exploring the Central African Copperbelt, an area straddling the border of Zambia and the DRC that hosts some of the richest deposits in the world.
“We have tried to invest in both the gold industry and more recently in the copper industry,” Bristow said. “We will find opportunities because the DRC is so well endowed.”
Last year, Barrick paid $1.4 billion to its African host countries in taxes, royalties and dividends, resulting in broader economic contributions of $3.3 billion.
Those numbers don’t reflect all the benefits, like the value created by nurturing generations of workers and improving the national labor pool, Bristow told Indaba.
Waiting for the next mega-deal
Although Barrick has not made a major acquisition since acquiring Randgold, it has come close. Over the past year, the Toronto-based miner has bid for Pretium Resources, Kirkland Lake Gold and Great Bear, but refused to engage in a bidding war, leaving each company to go to a competitor.
Barrick announced in April that it was moving forward with copper-gold giant Reko Diq in Pakistan, in partnership with the country’s government. The company is also considering whether to pursue the Donlin gold mine in Alaska, which it co-owns with Novagold Resources.
Despite Reko Diq’s $7 billion build and potentially the $9 billion Donlin project in the cards, Barrick says he’s open to a mega-deal if the right deal comes along.
(With files from Bloomberg)