March 10, 2008 / 2:42 PM / 12 years ago

Goldcorp sees higher gold prices

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldcorp Inc G.TO GG.N expects the price of gold to top $1,000 an ounce and stay there for a long time, a development that will allow the company to improve operating margins, Chief Executive Kevin McArthur said on Monday.

Goldcorp President and Chief Executive Kevin McArthur speaks during the Reuters Global Mining Summit in New York March 10, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

In a wide-ranging interview at the Reuters Global Mining Summit, McArthur, who is also president of the Canadian gold producer, said he thinks the price of gold, which was at $973 an ounce on Monday, is not “anywhere near a bubble.”

“We are not replacing the reserves that we’re mining, and yet demand continues to grow worldwide. We’re going to run out of gold,” he said of the global gold industry.

Higher gold prices will be the way to greater world production of the precious metal, he said.

For its part, Goldcorp, which is unhedged on gold, plans to add to reserves and boost production by 50 percent over the next five years, all while keeping a tight rein on costs.

Capital expenditures are forecast at $1.4 billion this year and $1.5 billion next year.

McArthur said he did not expect the company to make large acquisitions in the near future.

“Almost our entire focus is on brownfield exploration right now. These are properties we gathered up over the last seven years, big properties, that are underexplored,” he said.

One such property is Goldcorp’s flagship Red Lake mine in the Canadian province of Ontario.

“We’re finding exciting drill holes there. We expect to operate there for decades to come,” he said.

Goldcorp plans to spend $150 million on exploration this year, up from $120 million last year.

The company acquired some $10 billion of assets in 2006, including its takeover of Glamis Gold, the Eleonore gold deposit in northern Quebec, and Canadian assets from Place Dome.

Goldcorp has also sold non-core assets, including its 48 percent stake in Silver Wheaton Corp SLW.TO last month for C$1.6 billion.

The moves have put the company’s balance sheet in good shape, McArthur said.

“We’ve got a pretty good war chest anyway,” McArthur said, referring to the Silver Wheaton windfall and a $1.5 billion revolving credit facility.

If Goldcorp were to make acquisitions, it would be in districts where the company already has assets, especially in the Americas, north of South America, he said. The goal is to build mines in areas where political risks are low and potential deposits are big.

“We will not build a mine where we won’t go on holiday,” McArthur said.

“In a day when it is very difficult to find employees, there is not a mine we operate where I would not ask them to move there and move their family there,” he added.

Goldcorp’s key assets are in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina and the Dominican Republic.

On the question of input costs, McArthur said he thinks the upward pressure stemming from oil prices and a weak U.S. dollar is not properly reflected in conventional measures of inflation, yet are hitting the mining industry hard.

(For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/)

Reporting by Robert Melnbardis, editing by Matthew Lewis

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