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Barrick Gold Corp on Thursday estimated a 10.8 per cent drop in third-quarter gold production as the miner’s Porgera project in Papua New Guinea remained shut during the period.

The Toronto-based miner stopped production at Porgera after Papua New Guinea’s government refused to extend the mine’s lease in April because of community unrest and pollution concerns. The production halt also forced it to cut its full-year attributable gold production forecast in May.

Earlier in the day, Papua New Guinea and Barrick agreed in principle over Porgera, with Barrick Niugini Ltd set to remain operator of the project.

Barrick Niugini Ltd is a joint venture between Barrick and China’s Zijin Mining Group.

Barrick Gold estimated production of 1.16 million ounces of gold for the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to 1.3 million ounces a year earlier.

Gold prices have surged around 25 per cent this year on strong demand for the safe-haven asset due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, cost-conscious executives are prioritizing investor returns over production growth and hesitant to spend on pricey projects.

Barrick, which is scheduled to report third-quarter results on Nov. 5, on Thursday also estimated third-quarter copper production to be about 103 million pounds, an 8 per cent drop from a year earlier.

The miner’s U.S.-listed shares were down 1.6 per cent in premarket trading as spot gold prices dropped.

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