|Friday, 4 May 2012|
BARRICK Gold will spend as much as $US98 million ($A95 million) on exploration in the Australia Pacific region this year, which accounted for around 25% of the 1.88 million ounces the miner produced in the March quarter.
|Barrick Gold's Osborne mine in Queensland.|
Around 20% of this year’s $450-490 exploration budget will be spent around its existing operations in Western Australia, New South Wales and Papua New Guinea.
Despite the modest nature of some of its Australian operations, Barrick has said it has no plans to divest the smaller mines and instead would focus on expansion as it targets annual output of 9 million ounces of gold over the next five years.
To meet this goal, Barrick has a significant pipeline of growth projects, none of which are in the Australia Pacific region.
Construction of the $2.2 billion Pueblo Viejo project in the Dominican Republic is 93% complete with commissioning to begin in the current quarter.
The mine is set for first production mid-year and is expected to deliver 100-125,000oz gold at cash costs of $400-$500 per ounce this year.
Average annual production is set to average 625-675,000oz gold at total cash costs of $300-350/oz.
Meanwhile, the $5 billion Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina is around 30% complete and scheduled for first production in the middle of next year.
Once in production, the project will produce 800,000-850,000oz per annum at negative cash costs of $225-$275/oz.
Using a $1600/oz gold price, the two projects are expected to generating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $2.5 billion annual.
Meanwhile, EBITDA for the March quarter was $2 billion, while operating cashflow was $1.27 billion and adjusted operating cashflow was $1.37 billion.
Reported net earnings were $1.03 billion, while adjusted net earnings were $1.09 billion.
Net earnings included $93 million in impairment charges related to the write down of an investment in Highland Gold, partially offset by $36 million in gains from the sale of assets, foreign exchange gains and unrealised gains on non-hedge derivative instruments.
As well as 1.88Moz of gold, Barrick’s operations also produced 117 million pounds of copper.
Total gold cash costs were $545/oz, while net cash costs were $432/oz.
Cash margins for gold were $1146/oz, up 20% on the same time last year, while net cash margins increased by 16% to $1259/oz.
C1 cash costs for copper were $2.08 per pound, while copper cash margins were $1.70/lb.
Barrick president and chief executive officer Aaron Regent said the company made good progress in a number of areas during the quarter.
"We had good operating performance, which translated into solid financial results and further advanced our projects under construction with Pueblo Viejo and Jabal Sayid to start producing this year and Pascua-Lama in the middle of next year,” he said.
“We also progressed our exploration program, which continues to increase our resource base, improved our liquidity and returned more capital back to shareholders with a further increase in our dividend."
The board has approved a 20c dividend, a 33% increase from the previous quarterly dividend of 15c per share.
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