Mark Bristow is playing a new role. After spending decades finding and building his own mines, the South African geologist who built a widely admired gold company in sub-Saharan Africa that was taken over by Barrick Gold Corp. in January for $6 billion, is now trying to wring profits out of gold mines that someone else found and built — and then operated for years, sometimes making decisions that he cannot undo.
Bristow is about four months into his job as chief executive of Barrick, and production at the world’s second-largest gold miner is set to increase as much as 23 per cent to between 5.1 and 5.6 million ounces this year.
But costs are also up: share slid about 1.18 per cent to close at US$12.57 Wednesday in New York after it reported all-in sustaining costs would rise from US$806 per ounce in 2018 to between US$870 and US$920 an ounce.
Sitting in his 37th floor office at Barrick’s Toronto headquarters Wednesday, on a brief stopover for the company’s annual meeting and earnings report, the globetrotting chief executive, who has stops scheduled in Nevada, Paris, Barcelona and various other destinations before he returns to his home near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, took stock of the challenges facing his new company.
“We want to have the same cash flow as in the past, just off a lower grade base,” he said. Bristow said Barrick spent years “high-grading” its mines to pay down its heavy debt load. Now, in an overhaul at many mines, it is looking at lower grades to extend the lifetimes of its mines and searching for cost “efficiencies.”