Barrick successfully ‘revives’ Tanzanian assets

The North Mara gold mine in Tanzania. (Image courtesy of Twiga Minerals | Instagram.)

Barrick Gold (NYSE: GOLD) (TSX: ABX) reported on Thursday that it has “successfully revived” its North Mara and Bulyanhulu gold mines in Tanzania, with the former delivering significant improvements and underground production restarted at the latter.

Both mines produced near the top end of their production guidance in 2020, which was their first full year under Barrick’s management. Including Buzwagi, the Tanzanian operations delivered a combined output of 462,472 ounces for the year.

During the fourth quarter, North Mara posted a record throughput while Bulyanhulu recommenced processing of underground ore. Bulyanhulu is scheduled to be in full production when its ramp-up is completed, expected during the first half of 2021.

Both mines performed creditably on the health, safety and environmental front, with Bulyanhulu gaining ISO 14001 certification for the first time, the company said.

Barrick assumed control of these assets after re-acquiring Acacia Mining in September 2019. The company is now managing the mines, which paid a maiden dividend of $250 million in October 2020, through the Twiga joint venture with the Tanzanian government.

“These mines are now very different businesses,” Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said in a briefing for local media.

“North Mara’s life of mine production profile has been vastly improved and implementation of its comprehensive water management plan is on track,” Bristow continued.

“Bulyanhulu’s resurrection was a particularly exceptional achievement, considering that both its shaft and plant had to be refurbished extensively. The new mine plan is designed to deliver a long-term value-driven operation.”

Barrick is currently optimizing a 10-year plan to make the combined North Mara and Bulyanhulu mines its seventh tier-one asset by bringing them into the lower half of the industry’s cost curve. At the same time, the company continues to work on improving relations with its host communities.

During 2020, Barrick invested $800 million in the Tanzanian economy in the form of taxes, permits, infrastructure development, salaries and payments to local suppliers.

In line with its groupwide policy of employing host country nationals, the company continued to recruit locally, with over 600 new workers employed during the year at Bulyanhulu alone. Tanzanian nationals now make up 96% of the mines’ total workforce.

Shares of Barrick rose 1.0% by midday Thursday, giving the gold mining giant a market capitalization of C$50.45 billion.

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