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A truck waits for ore at Newmont Mining copper and gold mine in this file photo.

REUTERS

Under pressure to renew merger talks with Barrick Gold Corp., Newmont Mining Corp.'s chief executive said his company is"always open to opportunities," but declined to comment on media reports that the two gold producers had been close to brokering a deal.

"We are always open to opportunities that can make our company stronger and benefit our shareholders," Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg said at the beginning of his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Friday.

"While I cannot comment on rumours or speculation, I can tell you that we continue to be focused on running our business," he said.

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Toronto-based Barrick has been pressuring its American rival to resume merger negotiations after their talks hit a snag over what assets to spin out.

Barrick had once aimed to seal a deal before its annual shareholder meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

It sent Newmont an e-mail this week asking the miner to restart formal talks along with the terms of their friendly proposal.

But the Colorado-headquartered gold miner has not responded.

Mr. Goldberg's comments were his first public remarks since news of the merger negotiations surfaced one week ago.

They come after Barrick's founder and outgoing chairman Peter Munk spoke repeatedly to media about the benefits of combining his two companies.

The North American miners both operate multiple mines in Nevada and would be able to cut costs if they unified their assets.

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Mr. Munk's latest remarks blasted Newmont for being unfriendly to shareholders, a development that prompted market speculation that Barrick's bid could turn hostile.

Under the terms of their latest plan, Barrick would have paid $13-billion in stock, the equivalent of 730 million of its shares, to buy Newmont.

The companies would have spun out their Australian and Asian assets, which are more expensive to operate than their Nevada mines.

Throughout the years, the North American companies have discussed merging as well as co-operating more in Nevada.

Their talks became more salient due to the rout in the gold industry.

If Barrick eventually gets Newmont, it will be the final deal for the 86-year old Mr. Munk, who built his company into the world's largest gold producer.

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Mr. Munk is due to retire as chairman on Wednesday. He will be succeeded by former Goldman Sachs banker John Thornton, who is currently serving as Barrick's co-chairman and in charge of the merger talks.

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