Harmony Gold swings back to profit, will consider Barrick's Acacia stake

South Africa’s Harmony Gold (JSE:HAR) (NYSE:HMY) is said to be considering the acquisition of Barrick Gold's stake in Acacia Mining (LON:ACA), as the miner looks to expand operations across Africa.

Reporting annual results for the year ended in June, Harmony — the world’s fifth-largest gold producer and South Africa No. 3 miner of the precious metal — revealed Wednesday that it was on a hunt for acquisitions.

“We’ve identified specific targets we’d like to pursue, focusing on three areas,” chief executive officer Peter Steenkamp said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “That’s South Africa, the rest of Africa and also Papua New Guinea.”

Harmony Gold is looking to expand operations in Africa and also Papua New Guinea.

When asked whether Harmony’s expansion plans included buying Barrick’s majority stake in Acacia, Steenkamp confirmed the company “will look at it,” Reuters reports.

Canada’s Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE:ABX), the world's No.1 miner of the precious metal, may soon offload its majority stake in African subsidiary Acacia Mining as part of the company’s plan to become debt-free within a decade, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Acacia Mining, formerly known as African Barrick Gold, is Tanzania’s biggest mining company and operates three major gold mines there — Bulyanhulu, Buzwagi and North Mara.

In a July interview with Bloomberg TV, Barrick’s President Kelvin Dushnisky said the firm could, at some point, divest more non-core assets to reduce debt, including its 64% interest in Acacia Mining, its 50% stake in its Chilean copper mine, Zaldivar, and its Zambian Lumwana copper mine.

It’s estimated that Barrick could get around $1.9 billion for Acacia, which also has exploration projects in Tanzania and other African countries.

Back to profit

Harmony Gold swung back to profit this year in the quarter ended June 30. It was the first time it was back in the black since December 2012, thanks higher prices for the precious and the weakness of the South African rand against the dollar.

Acacia is Tanzania’s biggest mining company and operates three major gold mines there — Bulyanhulu, Buzwagi and North Mara.

The miner will pay a 50 cents dividend to its shareholders, also the first one since late 2012.

It also announced it has decided to stop mining at Kusasalethu, Harmony’s third-largest operation, in five years, which effectively shortens the life of the mine by about 19 years.

The company noted it did not see the merit of investing capital in the mine, which employs 4,500 people, to generate the high volumes needed to extract the low-grade portion of the ore body.

The new plan lowers Harmony’s reserves by 13% to 36.9 million ounces in the year that started June 30.

Harmony Gold swings back to profit, will consider Barrick's Acacia stake

Harmony has decided to stop mining at Kusasalethu in five years, which effectively shortens the life of the mine by about 19 years. (Image courtesy of Harmony Gold)