Barrick puts Australian gold mines up for sale: source

MELBOURNE Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:12am EDT

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO), battling heavy debt and a slump in gold prices, has put three mines in Western Australia up for sale, a person familiar with the process said on Monday.

The world's top gold producer has appointed Bank of America's Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) and UBS UBSn.VX to advise on the sale of its Yilgarn South group of mines -- Darlot, Granny Smith and Lawlers -- which last year produced 452,000 ounces of gold.

Total cash costs at the mines were $768 an ounce last year, according to Barrick's website.

A Perth-based spokeswoman for Barrick was not available to comment.

Chinese firms Zijin Mining and Shandong Gold are seen as potential bidders, as China looks to scoop up gold mines and gold companies offshore.

Barrick is suffering as it is carrying a net debt load of $11.6 billion stemming from its unpopular acquisition of copper miner Equinox Minerals, and with the slump in gold prices is under pressure to stave off a credit rating downgrade.

It has been plagued by delays and soaring costs at many of its biggest projects and this month faced another blow as the Chilean government forced it to partially suspend production at its $8.5 billion Pascua-Lama project.

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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