Barrick Sees Reserves, Output Declines After Gold’s Drop

Barrick Gold Corp., the largest producer of the metal, said its reserves and production will fall after gold had the biggest annual price drop in 32 years.

Barrick is calculating its 2013 year-end reserves using a price assumption of $1,100 an ounce, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Sokalsky said today at a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce conference in Whistler, British Columbia. For the end of 2012, the Toronto-based company reported 140 million ounces of gold reserves, based mostly on a long-term price of $1,500.

Barrick has sold assets, fired workers and is adjusting mine plans to focus on the most profitable production as it seeks to improve investment returns and free cash flow. Sokalsky started a companywide review of operations after he was promoted from chief financial officer in June 2012. Those efforts accelerated after gold slumped into a bear market. Spot prices fell 28 percent last year, the biggest drop since 1981.

“We’ve taken a conservative approach this year,” Sokalsky said. “We are only going to produce ounces that earn a higher return, that generate cash flow, that meet return hurdles.”

Along with focusing on more profitable mines, gold production will be lower this year because of asset sales, the closing of its Pierina mine in Peru and reduced output from the Cortez gold mine in the U.S., Sokalsky said. Barrick’s Zaldivar copper mine in Chile is also expected to produce less in 2014.

Barrick expects to record a writedown on its Pascua-Lama project, which the company has suspended, and is looking at other possible asset-value reductions, he said. The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter and year-end results Feb. 13.

The company took $8.7 billion of writedowns in its second-quarter earnings, including $5.1 billion on the Pascua-Lama project in South America, and cut its dividend by 75 percent.

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