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Barrick (GOLD) Expedites Lumwana Super Pit Expansion Project

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Barrick Gold Corporation (GOLD - Free Report) recently announced that the Super Pit expansion project at the Lumwana copper mine has been expedited, with initial production now slated for 2028. During a meeting with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, Barrick president and chief executive Mark Bristow provided this update, highlighting the project's significance in transforming Lumwana into a major global copper mine, projecting an annual output of approximately 240,000 tons over a lifespan exceeding 30 years. The project, with an estimated cost of nearly $2 billion, is set to commence construction later this year.

Since Barrick's strategic refocus in 2019, Lumwana, once a struggling mine, has undergone restructuring, emerging as a substantial contributor to Barrick's expanding copper portfolio. The reopening of the Malundwe pit and the successful transition to owner mining supported the achievement of the production targets for 2023.

Lumwana has made substantial contributions to the Zambian economy, injecting nearly $3 billion since 2019 in the form of royalties, taxes, salaries, and local business procurement. In 2023 alone, local procurement amounted to $472 million, constituting over 81% of the total spending for Lumwana.

Barrick, which is among the prominent players in the mining space along with Newmont Corporation (NEM - Free Report) , Agnico Eagle Mines Limited (AEM - Free Report) and Kinross Gold Corporation (KGC - Free Report) , also launched a Business Accelerator Program aimed at enhancing the business capabilities of Zambian contractors within its supply chain. This initiative seeks to empower these contractors for sustainable growth and diversification, extending beyond the life of the Lumwana mine. Adhering to Barrick's partnership philosophy, the company's REDD+ initiative aims to uplift host communities by conserving the natural forest surrounding the mine. Resources have been allocated, and community engagement is underway.

Barrick mentioned ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to facilitate necessary licensing, underscoring Barrick's commitment to collaboration with local government for sustainable initiatives.

Earlier this month, Barrick reported positive preliminary full-year and fourth-quarter 2023 production results, meeting its previously guided forecast for the entire year. The full-year gold production reached 4.05 million ounces, and copper production totaled 420 million pounds, falling within the projected range. In the fourth quarter, the company recorded sales of 1.04 million ounces of gold and 117 million pounds of copper, with the average market prices for gold and copper at $1,971 per ounce and $3.70 per pound, respectively.

The fourth quarter saw improved gold production, particularly from Cortez, Phoenix, and Pueblo Viejo, offsetting lower production at Loulo-Gounkoto as planned. However, the fourth-quarter gold cost of sales per ounce is expected to be 6-8% higher than the third quarter.

Another prominent mining company, Newmont, revised its 2023 standalone portfolio outlook in its third-quarter call, projecting 5.3 million ounces of attributable production. The update considers factors such as the Penasquito strike, reduced production from non-managed Nevada Gold Mines and Pueblo Viejo joint ventures, and decreased Ahafo production due to operating below full capacity to safeguard a grinding mill's girth gears. As a result, the 2023 CAS is estimated to be around $1,000 per ounce, with an AISC of $1,400 per ounce.

Agnico Eagle anticipates its 2023 gold production to exceed the midpoint of its gold production guidance, ranging from 3.24 to 3.44 million ounces. AEM also expects to meet its projected total cash costs per ounce of $840-$890 and AISC per ounce of $1,140-$1,190 for the year.

Moreover, Kinross maintained its trajectory to achieve its production guidance for 2023, targeting 2.1 million gold equivalent ounces with a variance of +/- 5%. The company is tracking the lower range of its 2023 production cost of sales guidance and the upper end of its capital expenditure guidance for the year.

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