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Visitors speak with a representative at the Newmont booth at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada annual conference in Toronto on March 1, 2020.CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

Gold miner Newmont Corp topped analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit on Thursday, benefiting from a surge in bullion prices as the COVID-19 pandemic and rising Sino-U.S. tensions boosted demand for safer assets.

Gold prices have scaled record peaks this year as the coronavirus crisis slams the global economy, with tensions between Beijing and Washington further boosting the appeal of the metal, long seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.

Newmont’s averaged realized gold price jumped about 31 per cent to $1,724 per ounce in the second quarter ended June 30.

Its attributable gold production, however, fell 21 per cent to 1.26 million ounces as coronavirus lockdowns led to the temporary closure of some of its mine sites.

Newmont had warned in May it would record its lowest quarterly output and highest costs this year in the second quarter due to the pandemic.

The company will spend $45 million per month to maintain safety protocols at its mines and is particularly worried about community spread of the virus in Mexico, Peru and Argentina, CEO Tom Palmer said on a call.

Latin America has become the region most impacted by the pandemic globally, with 26.83 per cent of worldwide cases.

“This virus is nasty. It’s terribly contagious. And we are keeping those protocols in place,” Palmer said.

The miner said on Thursday its all-in sustaining costs to produce an ounce of gold, an industry metric that reflects total costs associated with production, rose 8 per cent to $1,097 in the quarter.

Newmont’s adjusted net income rose to $261 million, from $92 million a year earlier.

On a per share basis, its profit of 32 cents was just above Wall Street expectations of 31 cents, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

The company’s shares were down 1.7 per cent in premarket trading, similar to other gold miners, as bullion prices fell slightly.

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