It was all pregnant pauses and humming and hawing at Kinross Gold Corp. on Thursday, when analysts had their first chance to interrogate the company about its plans for Tasiast, the giant gold project in Mauritania that has so far been anything but shiny.
Kinross was supposed to give an update on the project during a presentation of its second-quarter results on Wednesday, but other than saying it was studying the construction of a smaller mill, there was little news to speak of on Tasiast.
In fairness, chief executive J Paul Rollinson was only promoted a week ago after his predecessor Tye Burt was suddenly fired on Aug. 1, but analysts seemed nonplussed as the company deflected most questions about the deposit.
Asked how much a smaller mill might cost, Kinross begged off, telling Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. analyst Jorge Beristain that it was still in the midst of doing analysis and that it preferred not to speculate.
Mr. Beristain followed up with a question about when Kinross might better define the size of the project, he was again rebuffed.
“We’ll be in a position to update all of our exploration information, inclusive of drill results, resources and reserves, at the end of the year,” Kinross said on the call with analysts.
“So, basically, the same answer that Tye had given six months ago?” replied Mr. Beristain.
“Correct,” said Kinross.
Mr. Rollinson pledged again on the call to provide more updates about his plans for the company in coming weeks and months. He promised to make tough decisions, and not shrink from what is deemed in the best interests of shareholders.
He pledged company-wide cost cutting too, and in his first act as the company chief executive, appointed former chief operating officer Brant Hinze to the post of president as Kinross moves to refocus strategy and address a share price that is trading at less than half its 52-week high of $18.17 in September last year.
He also promoted two other executives.
But the call got off to an awkward start when he was asked to say exactly what had changed since Mr. Burt was ousted.
“My mandate from the board is clear,” he began. “It’s to continue the capital and project optimization process but also to implement additional measures to enhance operational performance ... (long pause) ... and the cost reduction initiative.”