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Barrick eyes 'tier one' potential at Veladero JV

Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) is eyeing the potential for its Veladero joint venture gold mine in Argentina to become a “tier one” asset as it extended its mine life to at least 10 years following a comprehensive review.
Barrick eyes 'tier one' potential at Veladero JV Barrick eyes 'tier one' potential at Veladero JV Barrick eyes 'tier one' potential at Veladero JV Barrick eyes 'tier one' potential at Veladero JV Barrick eyes 'tier one' potential at Veladero JV

Barrick Gold’s Veladero JV in Argentina

Staff reporter

The company also said it was investigating the potential in the "Veladero-Lama district" to add to Veladero's mine life. Its nearby Pascua Lama project, which straddles the Chile-Argentine border, remains under review.

Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow said Veladero's review had included the reinterpretation of the mine's geology and an infill drilling campaign, while the next step in the mine's transformation would be connecting to "cleaner, cheaper power" from the grid in neighbouring Chile.

"Our aim is to extend Veladero's life of mine beyond 2030 and elevate it to a tier one asset," Bristow said yesterday in a video conference with stakeholders, to comply with COVID-19 travel restrictions in Argentina.

Barrick defines a tier one gold asset as a mine with a stated life in excess of 10 years, annual production of at least 500,000 ounces of gold and total cash costs per ounce over the mine life in the lower half of the industry cost curve.

Veladero produced 274,000oz for Barrick in 2019, or 548,000oz on a 100% basis, at a cash cost of US$734/oz.

It's expected to produce 240,000-270,000oz for Barrick this year.

Shandong Gold owns the other 50% of the mine.

Barrick has been honing its focus on major operations. Its November sale of its 50% stake in the Super Pit in Western Australia represented the first step in the company's plan to realise more than US$1.5 billion from the divestment of non-core assets by the end of 2020.

In a presentation, Barrick said it would spend about $4.65 million to delineate and test brownfields opportunities in the Veladero-Lama district in Argentina which could extend Veladero's mine life.

It was also planning to spend $4 million on exploration in the Del Carmen district to the south.

Pascua Lama remains under review

Barrick said its Pascua Lama project remained under a "comprehensive internal technical review" this year and the project did not currently meet its internal filters for a tier one or tier two asset.

The embattled project was shelved again in 2018 as it didn't meet Barrick's investment criteria.

The 21.3 million ounce project has met a series of environmental, legal and technical challenges over the years, although Barrick had a court win in January reaffirming an earlier water quality decision.

Barrick was aiming to solve Pascua Lama's legacy challenges and was engaging with communities and authorities to build productive new partnerships, according to the presentation.

Barrick's shares gained 5.7% yesterday to close at C$22.93, a midpoint in the past 52-week's range, to capitalise it at $40.8 billion (US$28.8 billion).