Goldcorp sees opportunity in Colombia

TORONTO Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:49pm EDT

TORONTO (Reuters) - The head of Goldcorp (G.TO) said on Wednesday it was keeping an eye on early-stage gold projects in Colombia, even as it focuses on developing its large pipeline of projects elsewhere in the Americas.

"We're looking at early-stage opportunities in Colombia, along with many other countries," said Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes in an exclusive interview at the Reuters Mining and Steel Summit.

While acquisitions are not a priority for Goldcorp in 2011, it would not walk away from a good deal, Jeannes said.

"We will always keep our eyes open for an opportunity that could enhance our profile," he said.

Nearly a decade after the Colombian government launched a U.S.-backed offensive to end a long guerrilla conflict, violence has dropped in the South American country and political stability has returned.

That has burnished the appeal of Colombia, whose rich gold deposits were once the source of the Spanish Empire's power, as a potential destination for the resource sector.

"Ten years ago it was on our 'no-go' list and that's changed," said Jeannes. "They've done a great job of stabilizing government, stabilizing the security situation and opening the country to investment."

While the majority of current production out of Colombia is from small-scale, artisanal operations, the gold business is heating up.

Last month, Ventana Gold VEN.TO, which owns the promising La Bodega project in Colombia, accepted a takeover offer from Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista that values the company at C$1.5 billion.

South Africa's Anglogold Ashanti (ANGJ.J) is developing joint ventures with Glencore and Canada's B2Gold (BTO.TO).

Meanwhile, shares of explorers like Continental Gold (CNL.TO) and Medoro Resources MRS.TO have climbed steadily as investors pump money into their Colombian projects.

On the flip side, sshares of Greystar Resources GSL.TO have slid more than 30 percent this month, as it struggles to get permitting to develop its Angostura project.

While many of the largest diversified miners in the world already operate in the country, there are still no major gold mines.

"We're not necessarily waiting ... until somebody starts the first mine," said Jeannes of making an acquisition in Colombia. "There's a lot of examples of oil and gas and other extractive industries that have been active in Colombia for many years."

(Reporting by Euan Rocha and Pav Jordan in Toronto, Matt Daily and Steve James in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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