Barrick Gold looks to keep momentum with US$2 billion debt reduction target for 2016 – by Peter Koven (National Post – February 18, 2016)

Barrick Gold Corp. has set aggressive new targets for debt and cost reduction as it looks to continue momentum after a largely successful 2015.

However, the Toronto-based mining giant also offered up declining production guidance over the next few years. That underscores the challenges facing the entire gold mining industry, which has been on fire this year as prices have jumped.

Barrick said on Wednesday night that it expects to cut its debt load by “at least” US$2 billion in 2016 after reducing it by more than US$3 billion last year. That would take the overall debt down to US$8 billion and eliminate a lot of lingering concerns about Barrick’s balance sheet, which got over-leveraged because of a disastrous $7.3-billion copper acquisition in 2011.

Barrick expects to meet the target through its cash generation as well as asset sales and partnerships.

At the same time, the company also set a much more challenging goal: reduce all-in sustaining costs to below US$700 an ounce by 2019. Barrick’s costs were US$831 an ounce in 2015, which was already the best among senior gold miners. Most of the gold industry is still above US$1,000 an ounce.

The fact that Barrick could even consider a target this low shows that it is making significant strides under John Thornton, who has overhauled the company since taking over as chairman in 2014.

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