Barrick reports progress in Latin America, to close Lagunas Norte

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Peru’s Lagunas Norte mine, which global miner Barrick tried to sell earlier, will be placed on care-and-maintenance, CEO Mark Bristow announced on Tuesday, during a briefing updating community leaders and media in Argentina about the progress of the group’s operations in Latin America.

Following the January tour of the Latin American operations, Barrick announced in March that it had reversed a strategy to exit Peru and that it would consider a new plan for the Lagunas Norte mine, which produced 245 000 oz at an all-in sustaining cost of $636/oz last year.

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The miner said on Tuesday that the mine would be idled, while its team assessed the sulphide resource potential. The closing of the Pierina mine, also in Peru, was continuing.

Bristow renewed Barrick’s commitment to Latin America when he became CEO in January, and vowed to deal with legacy challenges in each of the countries where it has operations in the region.

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He reported that the group’s renewed commitment – designed to optimise its existing operations and create a platform for a next generation of mines – had made significant progress since its launch at the beginning of the year.

In a media statement, Bristow said the company’s assets in the region were a “major part” of its global portfolio and there was “enormous potential” for new discoveries.

“Barrick holds a highly prospective land package, with mining rights covering some 34 000 ha, in the El Indio gold belt. This legendary gold province, which spans Argentina, Chile and Peru, has already yielded five significant discoveries and we believe its mineral wealth still offers a very substantial upside,” he said.

“We have a new regional exploration strategy that is being implemented by a best-in-class team drawn from the merged Barrick and Randgold. In Argentina alone, we plan to invest more than $30-million in exploration over the next two years.”

Bristow said the current expansion of Pueblo Viejo, in Dominican Republic, is expected to maintain the mine’s tier-one status for years to come. 

At Veladero, in Argentina, work to reclaim its full potential and extend its life is already showing results, with the mine increasing production by 26 000 oz in the second quarter of this year. He noted that over the past 14 years Veladero had contributed some $8.9-billion to the Argentine economy through taxes, royalties, salaries and payments to local suppliers. In addition, the mine has established a new trust fund that could deliver more than $70-million in community infrastructure between 2020 and 2028, depending on production. 

At Pascua Lama, the focus is on going back to basics in order to review the original project’s parameters and defining its future potential.

In Chile, the Norte Abierto and Alturas projects were progressing.

Bristow said Barrick acknowledged that there were legacy challenges, but said that Barrick was engaging with governments and communities to resolve these and to build productive new partnerships.

“We are an organisation that has grown out of pioneering exploration, discoveries and development. Given our established presence here, our local geological knowledge and exploration skills, we are committed to becoming a leader in the region,” he said.