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Randgold CEO Bristow Hunts One Last Big African Discovery

Randgold CEO Mark Bristow
Mark Bristow, chief executive officer of Randgold Resources Ltd. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Mark Bristow, the chief executive officer of Randgold Resources Ltd., said he’s hunting one last major discovery to cap his career before retiring.

The 55-year-old South African has overseen Randgold’s development from a junior mining-exploration company into a gold producer with assets across sub-Saharan Africa including Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal. The next big find could be in Ivory Coast, he told reporters.

“I’d like to find one more asset, for me it would be a perfect finish to my career,” he said in Johannesburg yesterday. “We pour the gold and I’m out of here. I don’t want to hang around. I don’t want to be the chairman or anything like that. I’ve got other things to do.”

Bristow, a geologist by training, led the discoveries of three gold mines in Mali holding 20 million ounces in deposits, over the course of his 30-year career at Randgold. The stock’s return has averaged the equivalent of 27 percent annually in the past decade, compared with the 0.4 percent gain by Barrick Gold Corp., the largest producer, and the 2.7 percent decline by Newmont Mining Corp., the second biggest, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

With the Kibali mine in Congo that went online at the end of 2013, Randgold can produce gold profitably across its operations even if the price of bullion falls to $1,000 an ounce, 32 percent lower than the current spot price, for the next five years, Bristow said. The challenge is the five years beyond that.

Political Climate

“Last year, we really stepped up production and started eating into our reserves, so there’s lots of pressure on our geologists to start replacing those,” he said.

Randgold favors exploration over acquisitions even as competitors such as AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Barrick sell assets amid gold prices that are down 21 percent since the start of 2013.

“There’s nothing in the market that I’ve seen where you’re not paying a premium,” Bristow said.

Randgold considered Papillon Resources Ltd., an Australian explorer with assets in Mali, which Vancouver-based B2Gold Corp. agreed to buy June 3, Bristow said. Randgold valued the assets at about 50 Australian cents (47 cents) a share, while B2Gold paid the equivalent of A$1.72, he said.

The company’s top exploration target is Ivory Coast, where it already operates a mine at Tongon, a 6 million-ounce deposit, followed by Mali and Senegal.

“Ivory Coast is still virgin,” Bristow said, referring to unexplored territory. The country has good infrastructure, low-cost power and an amenable political climate, he said.

“We’re going to focus on ore body extension, and big bets,” he said. “That’s why Ivory Coast is so significant for us.”

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