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Work has started on the development of the massive Reko Diq copper/gold project in the Balcochistan province of Pakistan, in what CEO Mark Bristow describes as one of the company’s most significant developments of the year.

The project, which was suspended in 2011 owing to a dispute over the legality of its licensing process, hosts one of the world’s biggest undeveloped openpit copper/gold porphyry deposits.

When commissioned in five years’ time, Reko Diq will double the size of Barrick’s copper production capacity. Last year, the miner produced 440-million pounds from its three copper mines in Zambia, Chile and Saudi Arabia, and in 2023, it is targeting 420-million to 470-million pounds of copper.

“We have been building our copper portfolio and when Reko Diq comes on stream, it will lift us into the premier league of copper producers,” says Bristow.

He adds that expanding its copper portfolio is one of the company’s key strategies. In pursuing this, it considers the quality of potential assets in tandem with any risk factors in the jurisdictions that host them.

“Barrick is highly experienced in developing and operating profitable mines in some of the world’s frontier regions, which also happen to hold the greatest potential for new discoveries. In Pakistan, we have been impressed by the support we have received from our partners and by the efficiency with which the project agreements have been executed in a transparent process reviewed by the country’s Supreme Court,” Bristow said.

Barrick is currently updating the feasibility study for Reko Diq and plans to have this done by the end of 2024.

The reconstitution of the Reko Diq project added an attributable 18-billion pounds of copper at 0.44% with 15-million ounces of gold at 0.26 g/t to indicated resources, and an attributable 4.6-billion pounds of copper at 0.4% with 3.7-million ounces of gold at 0.2 g/t to inferred resources. These mineral resources reflect only three porphyries, as well as the Tanjeel deposit within the cluster of Western porphyries.

Alongside the ongoing feasibility study update, the team is also planning to evaluate further known porphyry occurrences within the mining lease area.