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Barrick Gold Corp Chief Executive Mark Bristow is expected to meet Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape this week, with the hope of speeding up a restart of the country’s giant Porgera gold mine, the miner has said.

Bristow is due to arrive in the country on Tuesday and stay until Friday as part of a regular visit, and will meet with the PM and senior government officials, Porgera Joint Venture said in a statement dated Oct.10.

The Porgera mine was placed on care and maintenance in April 2020, after a dispute over benefit sharing terms between the government, local people and Barrick, as part of renewing its mining lease.

The standoff was resolved a year later when the PNG government won a majority 51 per cent stake, and joint venture partners Barrick and China’s Zijin Mining agreed to halve their stakes, leading Bristow to express hope the mine could restart this year.

“While the current pace of the negotiations is not as rapid as we might have hoped, certain commercial arrangements … need to be finalized to give our shareholders confidence in the reinvestment,” Bristow said. “We all need to put in our best efforts towards concluding the remaining agreements if we want to have any chance of restarting the mine this year or early next year,” he said in the statement.

Marape’s office was not immediately able to comment.

The PNG government owns a 51 per cent share in the mine, while Barrick Niugini Limited, jointly owned by Barrick and Zijin, holds 49 per cent and remains the operator. Barrick and Zijin each previously held a 47.5 per cent stake.

Porgera produced nearly 600,000 ounces of gold in 2019 before being put on care and maintenance.

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