New Congo government should aid release of Kibali's $500 mln, Barrick CEO says

(Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp Chief Executive Mark Bristow said the group expected to get $500 million belonging to its Kibali gold mining joint venture out of Congo next month, adding that the advent of President Tshisekedi’s new government should help.

FILE PHOTO: Mark Bristow, chief executive officer of Barrick Gold, address a news conference at the launch of Twiga Minerals Heralds Partnership between Tanzania Government and Barrick Gold Corp in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman

The gold miner has been in discussions with Democratic Republic of Congo over the money for more than a year.

“With the new government now we’re pretty sure that that blockage will be unblocked and we’ll be able to go back to normal activities,” Bristow told Reuters.

Tshisekedi has consolidated control over the Congolese government and appointed a new prime minister on Monday, capping a series of victories over his once-dominant predecessor Joseph Kabila.

Under Congo’s 2018 mining code, miners must return 60% of revenue from mineral sales to the country to help develop the economy. The $500 million is excess cash left over after Kibali repatriated 60% of revenue and paid in-country expenses.

Barrick earlier reported a quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimates, helped by strong gold prices.

Bristow also said he was seeking a negotiated settlement in a dispute with Pakistan over the Reko Diq copper project.

The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2019 ordered Pakistan to pay damages of $5.84 billion to Tethyan Copper - an Antofagasta and Barrick joint venture - for blocking Tethyan from developing Reko Diq.

“We are exercising our rights in all avenues, but I’m wary that there’s always a more constructive way to solve a problem,” Bristow said.

In Zambia, Bristow said Barrick has successfully turned around its Lumwana copper mine and could be interested in buying a smelter.

“It doesn’t have a smelter so we do ship concentrate and there’s a discount to the metal price,” he said.

Bristow said he has looked at the Konkola Copper Mines smelter, but does not want to get involved in the dispute between Vedanta Resources and the Zambian government over the mine.

Speaking from Papua New Guinea, Bristow said Barrick is making progress on negotiations with the government over the Porgera mine, but provided no further details.

Reporting by Jeff Lewis and Helen Reid; Editing by Jan Harvey and Barbara Lewis