By Jacquie McNish
Barrick Gold Corp. is in discussions with various international investors to expand exploration and production at a pair of South America gold properties it had planned to sell last year.
Barrick Chief Executive Mark Bristow said in an interview on Monday that rising gold prices and potential investment interest from other mining companies, including China's Shandong Gold Group and Chile's Antofagasta PLC, has prompted him to reverse the company's plans to be "safe and small" by selling those assets.
Mr. Bristow was appointed CEO of Barrick in January after it merged with Randgold Resources Ltd., an African gold miner he founded.
The two South American properties, the Pascua-Lama project and the Veladero mine, are located along the Chilean- Argentine border.
Mr. Bristow said he has had initial talks with Shandong, Antofagasta and other companies about a variety of options including investments in the two South American properties. Shandong purchased a 50% stake in the Veladero mine in 2017. Chen Yumin, chairman of Shandong's board of directors, said during a visit to Toronto last month that the company is interested in investing alongside Barrick in other mining ventures.
Plans for South America could include shifting ownership of the Lama property at the Pascua-Lama project in Chile to nearby Veladero in Argentina, Mr. Bristow said. The planned mine at Pascua Lama has been delayed by legal and environmental disputes over Barrick's initial plans to operate an open-pit mine at the site. Barrick said earlier this year it was considering an underground mine.
Despite a possible pullback from its safe-and-small strategy, Mr. Bristow said Barrick is seeking to sell a number of smaller noncore mines by the end of next year for $1.5 billion. The assets include the Lumwana copper mine in Zambia and its 50% stake in the Kalgoorlie gold mine in Australia. Barrick had considered spinning off all three of its copper mines as recently as early last year, but Mr. Bristow said now there are no plans to sell its 50% stakes in the Jabal Sayid mine in Saudi Arabia or the Zaldivar mine in Chile.
Mr. Bristow said Barrick has held informal discussions with some potential buyers for Lumwana, but it hasn't yet hired an adviser.
He said a number of mining and fund investors have expressed interest in acquiring the Kalgoorlie mine, which is jointly owned with Newmont Goldcorp.
Write to Jacquie McNish at Jacquie.McNish@wsj.com