Barrick Gold Corp. warned it plans to cut gold reserves, take another impairment charge on its troubled Pascua Lama mine and produce less precious metal this year.
The company is taking steps to rein in costs and deal with the fallout from a 30 per cent drop in gold prices.
“We need to continue to make the tough decisions,” Barrick’s chief executive Jamie Sokalsky told investors at the CIBC Institutional Investor conference in Whistler, B.C. “We will make them. Even if it involves closing some mines or divesting of them,” he said.
Barrick’s warning shows gold miners continue to feel the effects of the weaker gold market, and are taking a more conservative stance. Barrick said it will use $1,100 (U.S.) an ounce to calculate its unmined gold this year. That is down 27 per cent from the $1,500 an ounce it used a year ago.
In addition to the lower gold price, Barrick has sold assets and shuttered mines, which will also reduce the company’s reserves. Barrick, the world’s biggest producer, had 140.2 million ounces of reserves based on a $1,500 price last year.
Mr. Sokalsky called Barrick’s new price assumption “more conservative” than other major gold producers. The world’s second largest producer, U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp., used $1,400 to calculate its reserves last year.
Barrick is still recalculating the total amount, but previously the company said a $1,200 gold price assumption would result in a less than 10-per cent decline in its reserves.
With bullion trading near $1,250 an ounce, Barrick and the rest of the gold industry has overhauled operations to survive.
The company is retooling and selling mines that cost more than $1,100 to produce an ounce of gold. As a result, it expects to produce less gold.
Barrick said it has met its 2013 guidance to produce between seven million and 7.4 million ounces of gold.
Mr. Sokalsky, who became Barrick’s CEO in a surprise management shake-up in 2012, said the company would “not veer off course” from being disciplined with its capital allocation even if it meant lower reserves and production.
So far, Barrick has recorded nearly $14-billion in writedowns, including $5.1-billion related to its South American Pascua Lama mine, and raised $3-billion in equity to pay down debt.
Development of Pascua Lama has since been suspended and Mr. Sokalsky said the company expects to record an additional impairment on the project at the end of the year.
Barrick will announce the write down, new reserve number and 2014 production targets when it reports year-end results mid-February.
Before the company reports its results, Barrick expects to meet with some of its largest shareholders Feb. 4 to discuss corporate governance changes and any of their concerns.
The company has nominated four new independent directors and said its founder and chairman Peter Munk will retire at Barrick’s upcoming annual shareholder meeting in the spring.
The traditionally quiet Canadian pension funds complained about how Barrick was governed, which led to Barrick’s boardroom shuffle in December.
Representatives from the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and other big pension funds will talk to Barrick’s incoming chairman John Thornton and the company’s new lead independent director Brett Harvey on Tuesday.