Porgera to restart after a year in limbo

BARRICK Gold has reached agreement with the Papua New Guinea government to restart the Porgera mine.
Porgera to restart after a year in limbo Porgera to restart after a year in limbo Porgera to restart after a year in limbo Porgera to restart after a year in limbo Porgera to restart after a year in limbo

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow (third from the right) in PNG on Friday

Porgera has been suspended since April 2020 after the PNG government refused to renew its special mining lease.

An in-principle agreement was reached in October and Barrick hinted at an imminent formal deal a week ago.

On Friday, Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow was in PNG and signed the binding framework agreement with PNG governor general Sir Bob Dadae.

Under the terms of the agreement, PNG stakeholders will hold 51% of the mine, with Barrick Niugini (BNL) to hold 49%.

Barrick and China's Zijin Mining each own 47.5% of BNL, with PNG stakeholders holding the balance.

BNL will remain the operator of the mine and will fund the restart.

PNG stakeholders and BNL will share the economic benefits generated over the life of mine on a 53/47% basis, respectively.

The government will retain the right to acquire the remaining 49% of the mine from BNL at fair market value after 10 years.

The parties will now work towards the signing of definitive agreements at which time full mine restart work will begin.

PNG prime minister James Marape said the framework agreement, reached after months of negotiation, was a historic development, which would benefit PNG for many years to come, and set the precedent for future projects.

"I thank Mr Bristow and his team for recognizing our nation's aspirations and their willingness to partner with us in realising this vision at Porgera," he said.

Bristow said Barrick, on behalf of BNL's joint venture partners Barrick and Zijin Mining, was delivering on its promise of reaching a fair agreement on the future of Porgera for the benefit of all its stakeholders, notably the local community, Enga province and the PNG government.

"We intend to partner with all key stakeholders to make Porgera a world-class, long-life gold mine," he said.

Porgera was a circa 500,000 ounce per annum gold producer prior to its suspension.

Barrick has not included any production from Porgera in its 2021 guidance.

Canaccord Genuity had assumed a restart in 2021 with Barrick's share of 2021 production to be 208,000oz.

"We had previously valued Barrick's 47.5% interest in Porgera at US$1.8 billion ($1.01/share), representing 4.1% of our mining net asset value," analyst Carey MacRury said.

"With a 24.5% interest, our consolidated Barrick NAV of $25.62/share would decline 1.5% to $25.23/share."

Canaccord reiterated a buy rating for Barrick and C$40 price target. Barrick shares closed slightly lower on Friday at $26.57.