Gold and copper mining company Barrick, which is installing solar power in the US where coal-fired electricity generation is also earmarked for elimination, is intent on making plans rather than promises as it cuts carbon emissions.
The New York- and Toronto-listed mining company, headquartered in Canada, is reducing greenhouse-gas emissions at all 16 of its operating sites in 13 countries as part of its climate-change mitigation commitment.
A solar power plant with initial capacity of 100 MW – and a permit already received to double that to 200 MW – is to be built to supply clean power to the US’ Nevada Gold Mines, while Veladero in Argentina is completing construction of its cross-border link-up with the Chilean national power grid, a global leader in renewable energy. Nevada’s transition from coal power to a dual energy solution of solar power and natural gas is expected to halve the complex’s carbon pollution.
For the eleventh successive quarter, Barrick has met or beaten consensus, president and CE Mark Bristow said on Thursday when strong third quarter production from its Africa, Middle East and Latin America regions positioned the company to meet the top end of its guidance for the year.
“We’ve really got to that point in two and three quarter years from the merger where we have ticked all the boxes,” Bristow stated in a telephone interview with Mining Weekly.
The operating third-quarter cash flow of $1 050-million and the free cash flow of $481-million does not reflect the $500-million in the Kibali joint venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which collectively supports an already strong balance sheet and the funding of Barrick’s capital allocation priorities.
Moreover, the third $250-million tranche of the return of capital distribution totalling $750-million will be paid to shareholders on December 15.
Brownfield exploration, particularly in North America and Africa, is poised to replace all the gold that Barrick is expected to produce this year “plus some”, said Bristow, driven by the continued successes at Goldstrike in Nevada, as well as exploration at Kibali in the DRC, Loulo-Gounkoto in Mali, and Barrick’s Tanzanian mines all replacing the gold that they have mined.
Moreover, the drive to expand its portfolio and extend its global footprint has added new exploration projects in five countries.
Attributable gold production in the third quarter was 1.09-million ounces, with output for the year-to-date totalling 3.23-million ounces.
Attributable copper production in the same quarter was 100-million pounds, with output for the year-to-date 289-million pounds. Even though Latin America will be slightly behind, overall the group is in shape to cross the 2021 finish line as guided.
Barrick has a scientifically based emission reduction roadmap that targets a 30% cut by 2030 against its 2018 baseline and a net-zero outcome by 2050.
“Promise without a plan seems to be the vogue and we’ve got a proper roadmap where we’ve either started or have planned. It’ll take us to 25% reduction by 2030 and that leaves us 5% to work on and eight years to do it. We’ve always said we don’t want to promise without a plan,” said Bristow.
Solar power has already been installed at Loulo-Gounkoto, where a microgrid is operational and battery storage is being augmented. Tongon, in Cote d’Ivoire, has a largely clean power grid. The three hydropower stations at Kibali have been enhanced by the installation of a 9 MW battery support system. The power line from Chile, which is said to have the greenest grid in the world, to Argentina, for Veladero, has been completed.
“That will take out 100 000 t of carbon emissions on an annual basis,” said Bristow – and two power stations are being converted to natural gas.
The 200 MW of solar power at Nevada will not only help Barrick to meet its own commitments but also to comply with State of Nevada targets. The Hemlo mine in Ontario is linked to a very green part of the Canadian grid.
“And we have many more little initiatives that we’re working on, with each emission reduction defined,” said Bristow.
SCOPE 3 EMISSIONS
Barrick is part of a collective commitment made by International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) members to understand Scope 3 “ because that’s a very complicated situation”, said Bristow.
“For gold miners and copper mines it is, of course, less of a challenge than for the steel industry but we’re busy working with our various suppliers to first of all understand and measure, and then we’ll be able to work with them to see how we can reduce Scope 3,” he added.
Barrick reported a realised lower third-quarter gold price of $1 771/oz compared with $1 820/oz in the second quarter and $1 926/oz in the comparative quarter of 2020, resulting in lower third-quarter adjusted earnings of $419-million – an 18% drop on its second quarter performance, and 42% below that of a year earlier.
But the top end of 2021 guidance is in sight, boosted by the restoration of Nevada’s Carlin mill operations.