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Barrick Gold plans to extend the life of the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic beyond 2040.

The expansion will enable Barrick to exploit the lower grades in the orebody and is not intended to process ore from outside the current concession area.

The gold miner expects the longer life to contribute towards the Dominican Republic’s economy for at least another 20 years.

The proposed expansion was estimated to increase export potential by an estimated $US22 billion ($34 billion) and generate an extra $US4 billion in taxes at a gold price of $US1500 per ounce.

Barrick president and chief executive Mark Bristow said an initial investment would require $US1.3 billion for expanding the process plant and tailings facility.

“Our aim is to continue contributing to the social and economic development of the Dominican Republic by applying our sustainability philosophy to create long-term value for all our stakeholders, especially the governments and people of our host countries,” Bristow said.

“Without this project mining at Pueblo Viejo would have ceased in the next two years.”

Barrick’s workforce is forecast to grow, with an increase in female worker opportunities through the mine life extension.

Exports from the Pueblo Viejo mine accounted for more than 38 per cent of the Dominican Republic’s total, according to Barrick.