CEO Gary Goldberg dishes on Newmont Mining's aggressive investment program

Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), the world’s number two gold producer by output, is advancing an aggressive investment program and its CEO, Gary Goldberg, couldn't be more confident about it.

Interviewed at MINExpo International 2016 in Las Vegas last month, Goldberg told that he sees more optimism in the industry. Even though producers and analysts are still cautious after three consecutive annual losses, the fact that gold prices have risen 24% this year has them betting on a brighter future.

"We've done a great job in positioning the business to be successful through the cycles," Newmont's president said. He doesn't seem to believe that a bull market is blooming, but he also doesn't have any near-term plans to slow down the company's hustle and bustle.

Transcript is edited for clarity.

Newmont Mining CEO Gary Goldberg being interviewed by at MINExpo 2016.

MINING.COM: We are at MINExpo, what is the mood?

Gary Goldberg: I think generally a bit of optimism compared to what I might have seen, say, even six months ago as markets are starting to improve a little bit. But I think it's too quick to be jumping to conclusions that gold is back on top again. I think we've just barely kind of come out of a low point at the gold price. We'll have to see what the election and interest rate changes at the Fed may do, but from my standpoint and from Newmont's standpoint I think we've done a great job at positioning the business to be successful through the cycles going forward and, you know, we'll see what the market brings.

MINING.COM: What is the assessment right now of your peers?

Gary Goldberg: I think that for some of the folks it's taking awhile to get some of their cost improvement programs going, so they're catching up, getting debt down. Some have been doing that, selling some assets even, still. From our standpoint, we've been one of the few that has actually been investing in new mines. We've got our Merian Mine, and that's that's coming on board, you know, first gold production is imminent right now, and Long Canyon here in Nevada, so we are one of the few that has actually built new properties during the downturn, made an acquisition to Cripple Creek and Victor last year during the downturn and really helped position the business to be strong looking out for the next five years in terms of consistent production and consistent cost.

MINING.COM: When you come to MINExpo, how many people do you bring from Newmont? What are the objectives?

Gary Goldberg: We bring folks from different parts of the business. We have some folks from our headquarters, we have some folks from our HR group that are here, and from our sustainability group, to market basically to potential employees and we have a booth set up for them. We also have some of our miners from Nevada down here. I think we have about 30 people here.

MINING.COM: What interests you as far as products and services? 

Gary Goldberg: I'm a mining engineer so I always like to see the equipment. That's always fun to get out and see, and especially how technology is being applied. There's a Komatsu truck that's supposedly fully autonomous and I walked around it today. I know Caterpillar has been working on some of those same things, so  I like to just see what's going on, not just with the big suppliers but there's a chance to see literally hundreds of different suppliers just by roaming the halls.

MINING.COM: What are analysts asking you about the business?

Gary Goldberg: The other half of KCGM is out there for sale, they're selling it, so they're all wanting to know "do you want to buy it and at what price?" and I've been very consistent: If we can acquire it for what I see as good value at the right price, then we'd like to pursue that.

MINING.COM: We are at MINExpo and it's been great for gold and it's been great for gold miners, but you talk to some of the product suppliers here and they're still saying it's still tough out there right now. Where is the market for the product of the suppliers right now?

Gary Goldberg: They depend on more than just gold. You've got the copper guys, the coal guys, and all the other miners, and people are cautious in terms of making their investments. Copper is off of where it had been. I think medium- to long-term, you'll see copper prices coming back up from where they are at, same thing with gold. Coal has had to go through a bit of a reset due to the competition from from shale gas here in the U.S. in particular. But coal is still going strong in other parts around the world. Coal is not going to disappear. It's got to go through a change, and they're all going through it and it's painful. It's painful for the people involved and all the rest, but I think they are repositioning to be stronger for the future, and it's important, it's an important part of the energy mix for us here in the US and clearly for the energy mix globally.

MINING.COM: What's the smartest thing you've heard about gold over the last month?

Gary Goldberg: I think the fundamentals are still strong, in terms of market demand, so I think that's a positive but, you know, we don't control the price, it's got to keep the focus on what we do control in the business.

Komatsu's autonomous truck on display at MINExpo 2016