Barrick’s Bristow held ‘theoretical’ talks on potential tie-up with Freeport-McMoRan

Grasberg mine

BARRICK Gold had held “theoretical” talks with US copper and gold miner, Freeport-McMoRan, about a tie-up between the two, said the Financial Times.

In an interview with the newspaper, Barrick CEO, Mark Bristow, said there had been “conversations”, but these had been more theoretical. His comments supports speculation Barrick is interested Freeport which has among its portfolio the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, which has guided to production of 615 million pounds of copper and 800,000 ounces of gold in 2019.

“As the leader of the most valuable gold company in the world, I should be looking at the world’s best gold mines,” he said. “It makes sense for us to be interested in looking at Grasberg and asking ourselves whether Freeport is going to remain an independent company or not,” he told the Financial Times.

Bristow added that ‘the young’ gold bearing orebodies occurred with copper therefore the base metal ought to be considered strategically important as Barrick set about replacing its current reserves portfolio.

“The new, big gold mines are going to come out of the young geologies of the world,” he said. “And in young rocks, gold comes in association with copper or vice versa.”

Bristow said last year that he was thinking differently about Lumwana, a copper mine that Barrick owns in Zambia. The mine has underperformed in the past and looked like a candidate for divestment in line with Bristow’s strategy to endow Barrick with only tier one quality mines. But in October, he said that Lumwana was worth more than its then $735m listing in Barrick’s books and its prospects could be improved with industry consolidation.


Bristow also said in an interview with Reuters that the company would ship up to $280m in gold from Tanzania after the government lifted an export ban.

“The shipments will start immediately and, as we speak, we are mobilising the concentrates,” said Bristow in an interview with Reuters. “It’s (worth) around $260m to $280m depending on … metal prices at the time of sale.”

Bristow was instrumental in ending a three-year tax dispute with the Tanzanian government which claimed Barrick listed subsidiary, Acacia Mining, had underpaid the fiscus by tens of billions of dollars going back 20 years.

The government subsequently imposed export bans on gold-in-concentrate exports that nearly hobbled Acacia. The company recovered but John Magufuli, Tanzanian president, refused to negotiate with Acacia eventually forcing Barrick to buy out Acacia minority shareholders. Barrick owned about 64% in Acacia Mining.

Earlier this month, Barrick signed an agreement with the Tanzanian government that the former Acacia mines be held jointly in a joint venture called Twiga Minerals Corporation. There was also an agreement that Barrick pay the Tanzanian government a $300m one-off fee. The joint venture agreement should have been signed at the end of December.

Speaking in August, Bristow said the integration of the former Acacia mines into Barrick would comprise “a great deal of work”.

“Rebuilding these operations after three years of value destruction will require a lot of work, but the progress we’ve already made will be greatly accelerated by this agreement,” said Bristow.