Barrick Gold boss tells miners to brace for more inflation

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow. Credit: Barrick Gold Corp.

Barrick Gold Corp. boss Mark Bristow is sticking with his cost guidance for now, despite inflationary headwinds at mines around the world, but said the idea that industry costs have peaked is “wishful thinking.”

The world’s No. 2 gold producer on Monday reported second-quarter earnings that were slightly ahead of estimates, partly by keeping cost increases capped at 4.1% from the first quarter in a highly inflationary environment. In the same report, Barrick said costs would trend toward the high end, or even slightly exceed, its guidance range. Despite mitigation efforts, the firm remains dependent on fuel and energy prices.

“I don’t think this inflation is going away in a hurry,” Chief Executive Officer Bristow said in an interview after the release of earnings, citing Covid-related nationalism, the lingering impacts of pandemic stimulus and a “completely disparate” geopolitical environment. “Everyone is just wishing inflation away.”

Still, the storied mining executive said companies can make it through. “If you’ve got good ore-bodies with long life, then you should be able to easily manage this inflation and certainly Barrick is in that position.”

Barrick shares were up 5.4% at 11:59 a.m. in New York.

Since taking Barrick’s reins after its 2018 takeover of Randgold Resources, Bristow has never missed estimates. He attributed that to correcting the market when it runs ahead of itself.

The company has cushioned the blow of inflationary headwinds by unlocking savings following the Randgold acquisition, migrating to a younger workforce and building up stockpiles of inputs such as explosives (needed for mine blasts).

But there’s only so much a CEO can do in the face of lingering supply-chain disruptions spurred by the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and Chinese lockdowns. With labor, energy and supplies getting pricier industrywide.

In terms of growth, the Toronto-based firm’s intention is to focus on its own portfolio of projects, including a giant undeveloped copper-and-gold deposit in Pakistan.

While Barrick is always looking at deal-making opportunities, it’s “not easy to find value” right now in potential takeovers, Bristow said.

(By James Attwood)

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