North Mara resumes in Q4 as Barrick registers strong production year post Randgold merger

North Mara, Tanzania

BARRICK Gold capped off a strong year following its merger with Randgold Resources in January 2019 reporting gold production of 5.5 million ounces, at the upper end of the 5.1 to 5.6 million oz guidance range.

Copper production totalled 432 million pounds in 2019, higher than the top end of guidance of some 430 million pounds.

Fourth quarter gold production came in at 1.44 million oz, higher than in the third quarter owing to good performances from Nevada Gold Mines and Pueblo Viejo. The resolution of a dispute with the Tanzanian government also had a bearing on the numbers.

North Mara, previously part of Acacia Mining in which Barrick Gold was the largest shareholder, resumed normal operations in the quarter following the lifting of restrictions at its tailings storage facility.

The restrictions related to a dispute over leakage of contaminants into nearby water sources, according to the Tanzanian government. It had threatened to suspend production at North Mara until a new settlement dam was built.

Barrick, however, bought out shareholders in Acacia as part of a tax settlement with the Tanzanian government and is now restoring production at all of the former Acacia mine facilities, including North Mara, identified by Barrick CEO, Mark Bristow, as a tier 1 asset.

The average market price for gold in the fourth quarter was $1,481 per ounce, while the average market price for copper in the fourth quarter was $2.67 per pound, said Barrick in its quarterly update today.

Fourth quarter gold cost of sales per ounce is expected to be in line with the third quarter. A quarter-over-quarter decrease in gold total cash costs per ounce and all-in sustaining costs per ounce of approximately 1-3% and 6-8%, respectively is expected, it said.

Preliminary fourth quarter copper production was slightly higher than the third quarter of the year following strong performance across all operations, said Barrick.

Sales, however, were lower in the fourth quarter as production levels at Lumwana, the Zambian operation, continued to be negatively affected by the refurbishment at one of the third-party smelters that process a portion of the concentrate produced at the mine. The refurbishment is expected to be completed in January, said Barrick.

Barrick said fourth quarter copper cost of sales per pound are expected to be 4-6% higher than the prior quarter, C1 cash costs per pound are expected to be 6-8% higher and copper all-in sustaining costs per pound are expected to 2-4% higher quarter-over-quarter.