Barrick Gold sees potential to expand Tier 1 assets

TORONTO (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO could have nine of the world's top gold mines in a relatively short time under its $6.1 billion acquisition of African miner Randgold Resources Ltd RRS.L, Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton said Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Barrick Gold Executive Chairman John Thornton attends the company's annual shareholders meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

Barrick and Randgold will focus on Tier 1 assets, ones that produce 500,000 ounces of gold annually, have a mine life of more than 10 years and are low cost. The combined company, subject to a Nov. 5 shareholder vote, will have five of the world’s top 10 Tier 1 assets, Thornton said.

“This combination could have as many as nine Tier 1 assets within a relatively short period of time,” he said on a conference call with analysts to discuss quarterly financial results.

Barrick’s Fourmile project and Turquoise Ridge mine in Nevada have “high potential” to become Tier 1 assets, Thornton said, adding that the company is also optimistic about its Veladero mine in Argentina and Acacia’s North Mara mine in Tanzania.

Talks with the government of Tanzania, to resolve a long-running tax dispute affecting Barrick’s Acacia Mining unit, are continuing but have slowed, Senior Executive Vice President Kevin Thomson said on the call.

“We continue to be optimistic that we will get to the right place,” Thomson said, while declining to provide a time frame for any resolution.

Barrick has not held any talks with Acacia about buying out the 31.9 percent stake that it does not own, he said in response to a question about a Bloomberg report that Barrick favors taking back control of Acacia after the Randgold deal closes.

Barrick has also identified non-core assets that it will consider selling, among other options, to maximize value, Thornton said.

Barrick is in “slow-motion, long-term conversations” with partners in Saudi Arabia and China who are highly interested in Barrick’s copper assets, he added.

Thornton, who last week joined Randgold CEO Mark Bristow to meet with shareholders in the United States, Canada and Europe, encouraging investors to vote on the deal.

Barrick was among a string of gold miners, including Newmont NEM.N, Agnico Eagle AEM.TO and OceanaGold OGC.AX, reporting moderately positive quarterly results this week and offseting weaker metal prices, Scotiabank analyst Tanya Jakusconek said in a note Thursday.

Reporting by Susan Taylor, Editing by Franklin Paul and Susan Thomas