Barrick could trade copper mines for gold ones to expand Tier 1 assets

The Turquoise Ridge underground mine was mentioned as one of the assets with “high potential” to become Tier 1. Barrick is the operator and 75% owner of the Nevada-based mine. Newmont Mining owns the remaining 25%. (Image courtesy of Barrick Gold.)

Barrick Gold’s (TSX, NYSE:ABX) executive chairman John Thornton said Thursday the company could sell its non-core assets, particularly copper ones, as a result of the merger with Randgold Resources (LON:RRS), a deal which is expected to happen in the first three months of 2019.

Barrick and Randgold will focus on Tier 1 assets which produce 500,000 ounces of gold annually, have a mine life of more than 10 years and are low cost. 

Commenting on the company’s third quarter results, Thornton said Barrick could have nine of the world’s top bullion mines in a “relatively short” time, adding that it could achieve that by swapping copper assets for gold ones with companies in China and Saudi Arabia.

The combined miner plans to focus on Tier 1 assets, those producing at least 500,000 ounces of gold annually, with a mine life of more than 10 years and low costs.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Andrew Kaip said earlier this week the most likely asset to go first, due to its potential to fetch about $1.3 billion, would be Barrick’s Lumwana copper mine in Zambia.

Kaip flagged a total of 13 mines from South America to Zambia he sees as likely to be sold following the $6 billion-merger, subject to a Nov. 5 shareholder vote.

Thornton, in turn, mentioned the company’s Fourmile project and Turquoise Ridge mine in Nevada as assets that have “high potential” to become Tier 1, adding there is also optimism about what can be done with its Veladero mine in Argentina and Acacia’s North Mara mine in Tanzania.

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