Barrick seeks to eclipse $1.5 billion asset sales target, eyes more copper

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian miner Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO is keen to top its $1.5 billion target for asset sales after shedding its half of the Super Pit gold mine in Western Australia, Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Mark Bristow, chief executive officer of Barrick Gold, speaks during an interview at the Investing in African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

Australia's Saracen Mineral Holdings Ltd SAR.AX agreed on Monday to buy Barrick's 50% stake of the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Joint Venture, which operates one of Australia's largest gold mines, for $750 million.. Newmont Goldcorp Corp NEM.N holds the other 50% share.

The deal is a first step in Barrick’s plan to jettison at least $1.5 billion in less-profitable assets by the end of 2020 in the wake of its acquisition of Rangold Resources a year ago.

“The number is $1.5 billion to beat,” Bristow said in an interview. “We’re already half way.”

He declined to comment on specific assets but analysts said on Monday Barrick’s Lumwana copper mine in Zambia and its Massawa gold mine in Senegal are likely next candidates. Neither are among the Tier 1 mines Barrick has said it will focus on.

Buoyed by stronger gold prices, Barrick this month raised its dividend and reiterated a five-year annual production plan of 5.1-5.6 million ounces of gold at an all-in sustaining cost of between $850-$950 per ounce.

Barrick, the world’s No. 2 gold producer, is also mulling whether and how much to extend its copper business to capitalize on growing demand for the red metal in low-carbon technologies, Bristow said.

Barrick produced 112 million pounds of copper from three mines – Lumwana, Zaldivar and Jabal Sayid – in the quarter ended Sept. 30, but the company remains a relatively small player in the market.

“My view is right now that’s a conversation that’s probably worth being held amongst investors and the market in general,” he said.

Many of Barrick’s gold deposits in the Americas also hold copper and the two metals have similar characteristics, presenting natural synergies, Bristow said.

Expanding in copper would also help satisfy the growing number of investors that screen miners based on environmental, social and governance guidelines, he said.

“If you really believe in less carbon, lower carbon footprints and a more modern economy and lifestyle for humanity on this planet, you have to believe in copper,” he said.

Reporting by Jeff Lewis; Editing by Tom Brown