Gold seen rising as Canadian miner eyes lack of exploration

Essakane Gold Mine, Burkina Faso. (Image courtesy of IAMGOLD)

(Bloomberg) — Bullion prices are set to climb because there’s been a lack of exploration and the global industry isn’t replacing the reserves it’s been mining, according to Stephen Letwin, chief executive officer at Iamgold Corp.

“Gold has a much higher probability of moving north as opposed to south,” Letwin said in an interview at a mining conference in Hong Kong on Thursday. “I’ve been around a long time; when you’re in an industry that’s not replacing what it produces, eventually, the price has to move up.”

The producer-funded World Gold Council has estimated that world supply may have peaked, while Frank Holmes, chief executive officer of U.S. Global Investors Inc., said this week that mine supply topped out in 2017 or will do so this year. Combined with understated inflation and strong demand from China and India, this could help boost prices to $1,500 an ounce by the end of the year from about $1,327 now, according to Holmes.

Toronto-based Iamgold is seeking to increase production to 1.35 million ounces in four years from about 875,000 ounces, through more exploration near existing mines and by ramping up its Westwood operation in Canada, Letwin said. Exploration had yielded some significant discoveries at Rosebel in Suriname and Essakane in Burkina Faso. All-in sustaining costs are going to drop to about $800 an ounce from around $1,000, he said.

The company spends about $45 million a year on exploration, and isn’t looking into acquisitions, unless they are really compelling, said Letwin, who’s had close to three decades of experience in the oil and gas industry and been in the mining sector for the past eight years. Iamgold has other development and exploration projects that may come on stream from 2021, he said.

Iamgold has hedged its exposure on oil to 2022 and takes protection on Canadian dollars and euros, but it doesn’t hedge gold, Letwin said. “Our shareholders are buying our equity because they want exposure to gold.”

(Written by Ranjeetha Pakiam)