By Allison Martell
DENVER, Sept 24 Newmont Mining Corp is
open to adding more copper production to its core gold business,
the company's CEO said on Tuesday, as the biggest U.S. gold
miner, along with its peers, seeks to revamp operations in a
Newmont already has three copper-gold operations and as a
result has "very good core capabilities that we can leverage
into copper," chief executive Gary Goldberg told delegates at
the Denver Gold Forum, an industry conference.
"We've got good expertise, and I think the best thing to do
for shareholders is to leverage that expertise and put copper on
the list of things we would look at," Goldberg told Reuters in
an interview following the presentation.
Goldberg said the company will not target a specific
percentage of revenue to come from copper.
Sliding gold prices and ballooning capital and operating
costs have rocked the gold industry, making reliance on the
precious metal alone less attractive.
"Two years ago you probably would not have been saying
copper," Goldberg said during the presentation. "There was a
premium for gold producers."
In late June, gold slid close to $1,180 an ounce, its
lowest price in nearly three years. Gold is down more than 20
percent so far this year, while benchmark copper is down
about 10 percent this year at $7,159 a tonne.
A move into copper may spook some investors after the
disappointment that followed Barrick Gold Corp's C$7.3
billion ($7.09 billion) takeover of Africa-focused copper miner
Equinox Minerals in 2011.
The jewel at the center of that deal, the Lumwana mine in
Zambia, has so far failed to live up to expectations, forcing
Barrick to halt a planned expansion and book a $3.8 billion
impairment charge on its value.
Goldberg said any copper asset purchase would have to help
take Newmont "down the cost curve" and be in a jurisdiction
where the company could manage the social, political and
CONGA RESTART "NOT IMMINENT"
Peru's minister of mining and energy was quoted in the Los
Angeles times last week saying that Newmont's Conga gold project
could restart soon.
But Goldberg said that while the situation in Peru has
improved, a restart is "not imminent."
Newmont suspended construction in 2011 after violent
protests, and later said it would focus on building water
reservoirs and winning over the local population before moving
"When you look at public opinion polls, they're starting to
move in our direction but we have a ways to go," he told
Goldberg said the earliest he would take the Conga project
back to his board for a decision would be in early 2015, after
elections in the region, and he would consult with local leaders
and opinion polls at that point as well.
The project in northern Peru is a joint venture with
Peruvian miner Companias de Minas Buenaventura.