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Mark Bristow, chief executive officer of Barrick Gold Corp. earned US$18.1-million in 2020, a banner year for the gold industry that saw bullion hit an all-time high.

His pay included a salary of US$1.8-million, share awards worth US$9.9-million, and a bonus of US$5.2-million.

While the year-over-year rise in his overall compensation was only 4 per cent, the package to Mr. Bristow appears to be the second highest ever paid to a Barrick executive.

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In 2009, the company paid Aaron Regent US$21.2-million. A few years later, Mr. Regent was ousted from the company after a protracted period of poor stock-price performance.

Mr. Bristow joined as CEO in 2019, after Barrick bought Randgold Resources Ltd., the African gold miner he founded and ran for two decades. Under Mr. Bristow, Barrick, the world’s second biggest gold miner, has done well. It has lowered its once sky-high debt loads to respectable levels, stayed disciplined on M&A, and managed to avoid major technical problems at its mine sites.

Last year, Barrick also attracted a more than US$500-million vote of confidence from Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. bought shares in the company. In addition, thanks to brisk cash flow from operations, Barrick plans to pay US$750-million in a trio of special dividend payouts to investors starting in May.

This year has not gone as smoothly, with the stock down 12 per cent after a correction in the price of gold, and a continuing dispute with the government of Papua New Guinea over a profit-sharing agreement. Investors too have gravitated away from gold mining companies, as other metals have outperformed this year. To wit, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. exited its position in Barrick a few months ago.

After hitting a record high of US$2,050 an ounce last summer, mainly due to financial mayhem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, gold has fallen steadily in the past months, as volatility has abated. On Thursday, gold traded at US1,725 an ounce. Meantime, shares in Barrick closed the session at $25.57 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, more than 50 per cent below the peak in 2010.

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