Barrick Gold Corporation (Barrick or the "company") is providing the following updates on the Pascua-Lama project in Chile and Argentina with respect to construction re-sequencing, capital expenditures and impairment testing.
Schedule Re-sequencing and Reduction of 2013-2014 Capital Spending
The company has submitted a plan, subject to review by Chilean regulatory authorities, to construct the project's water management system in compliance with permit conditions for completion by the end of 2014, after which Barrick expects to complete remaining construction works in Chile, including pre-stripping. Under this scenario, ore from Chile is expected to be available for processing by mid-2016.
In line with this timeframe, and in light of challenging market conditions and materially lower metal prices, the company intends to re-sequence construction of the process plant and other facilities in Argentina in order to target first production by mid-2016 (compared to the previous schedule of the second half of 2014).
Re-sequencing the project primarily entails a reduction in project staffing levels as construction is extended over a longer period of time to coincide with the availability of ore from Chile in mid-2016. This will result in a significant deferral of planned capital spending in 2013 and 2014. It will also allow the company to seek additional cost and operational efficiencies in the overall contracting strategy and optimize summer and winter work plans.
Barrick now expects to reduce capital expenditures(1) at Pascua-Lama in 2013 and 2014 by a total of $1.5-$1.8 billion. Capital expenditures at Pascua-Lama for 2013 are expected to be reduced by approximately $700-$800 million (including $300 million in previously announced deferrals) to $1.8-$2.0 billion. Capital expenditures at Pascua-Lama in 2014 are expected to be reduced by approximately $0.8-$1.0 billion to approximately $1.0-$1.2 billion.
The company expects to provide an updated total capital cost estimate for the project in the third quarter of 2013 when the re-sequenced construction schedule is finalized. Monthly capital expenditures will be significantly reduced as a result of the extended schedule and the company is focused on minimizing any further capital expenditure increases for the project.
In its first quarter 2013 report, Barrick indicated that it may need to reassess the long-term gold and silver price assumptions used in its most recent annual impairment test should metal prices remain at lower levels for an extended period of time.
As a result of recent and continued significant declines in gold and silver prices, and the delay in first gold production, Barrick is conducting impairment testing. Preliminary analysis indicates an after-tax asset impairment charge in the range of approximately $4.5-$5.5 billion(2) in the second quarter for the Pascua-Lama project. The company will complete a final impairment assessment by its second quarter 2013 results release.
In light of the lower metal price environment, Barrick is also reviewing its other assets, including goodwill, for possible impairment charges in the second quarter, which, although dependent on various analyses and assumptions which have not been finalized, are likely to be significant.
"When complete, Pascua-Lama will be one of the world's great, low-cost gold mines, producing an average of 800,000-850,000 ounces of gold per year in its first full five years of production. In light of the challenging business environment we are facing today, and taking into consideration existing construction delays, the company is advancing the project in a prudent manner by extending the construction schedule over a longer period, which will reduce total planned capital expenditures by $1.5-$1.8 billion for the years 2013 and 2014, and allow us to efficiently re-sequence the remaining construction work," said Jamie Sokalsky , President and Chief Executive Officer.
"This mine has significant and strategic value for Barrick shareholders and the project's host jurisdictions of San Juan Province, Argentina and the Atacama Region of Chile. We continue to work closely with the governments of both countries to ensure Pascua-Lama is on the right path to deliver value for all of our stakeholders, including shareholders, host governments and local communities," added Mr. Sokalsky.
Update on Legal Action
The company is awaiting a decision from the Copiapo Court of Appeals with respect to a constitutional rights protection action filed in September 2012 on behalf of four indigenous communities seeking an order suspending construction of the project in Chile.
Barrick's vision is to be the world's best gold mining company by operating in a safe, profitable and responsible manner.
(1) Includes Pascua-Lama initial project capital plus infrastructure capital.
(2) This is a preliminary estimate range and the impairment testing work is ongoing, including with respect to various underlying assumptions related to items such as long-term metal prices, capital costs, and the construction schedule re-sequencing work for the project.