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An excavator fills a dump truck with ore at the Kibali gold mine, in Haut-Uele province, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Oct. 8.

HEREWARD HOLLAND/Reuters

Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp has discovered geological extensions at its Kibali gold mining joint venture in Democratic Republic of Congo that will prolong the life of the mine to 2040, Chief Executive Mark Bristow said in an interview.

The mine in the country’s northeast is on track to produce gold at the top end of forecasts for the year, and geologists have found mineral reserves exceeding those depleted annually, Bristow said.

“We are starting to see geological extensions that will take us (another) 15 years, that takes us to 2040.”

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A new Central Bank governor and legislature broadly supportive of President Felix Tshisekedi should aid the release of $500-million cash left over after Kibali repatriated 60 per cent of its revenue and paid in-country expenses, he said.

Under Congo’s 2018 mining code, miners must return 60 per cent of revenue from mineral sales to the country to fund economic development.

Kibali has received special approval to pay dividends from the cash, he said, without giving details. When the money is released, it can pay further dividends and begin to pay down its debt, which is accumulating interest at 8 per cent annually, he added.

“We’ve already paid some of the money out in dividends but we want a whole package.”

“We’ll fix it in March legislation next year, but in the meantime we want to get it out,” he said, without specifying which new law.

Barrick declined to comment.

Kibali, 45 per cent-owned by Barrick, 45 per cent by AngloGold Ashanti and 10 per cent by state-owned gold company SOKIMO, aims to double its 10MW battery bank to help boost power from its three hydroelectric dams and reduce reliance on its diesel thermal power station during the dry season.

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“We get better bang for our buck by introducing more batteries at this stage, than expanding the baseload,” Bristow said.

The company is working with the government to create an “exclusion zone” on its concession where artisanal mining would be authorized, and will help identify gold deposits for mining by local communities, he said.

“They mine little veins of gold that we would never mine; it’s high grade, it’s easily recoverable,” he said. “We’re prepared to put capital in there, but then we want it to be licensed and shepherded.”

Subsistence gold mining is widespread around Kibali, with some miners working inside the protected Garamba National Park. Non-governmental organizations have called for more support from industrial miners to formalize artisanal mining.

Bristow, who wants to add more copper assets to Barrick’s portfolio, also said he was looking at opportunities in Congo’s copperbelt in the south.

“I have said we will invest in copper opportunities where we have competitive advantage over traditional copper miners and my view is that in DRC we have that,” he said.

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