MAC: Mines and Communities

Barrick's chairman unapologetic in face of protest

Published by MAC on 2010-05-07
Source: Toronto Star, The Canadian Press

As if he doesn't have enough to do, it seems that Barrick chairman Peter Munk is now defending capitalism, as well as his company's shocking record at the company's AGM.

He appears to have done this through boasting of achievements, blanket denial and attacking his critics, such as a "rogue element" among some non-government agencies that want to halt all development.

Munk takes on mine protestors, defends capitalism

'We do not need your money,' Chilean woman tells Barrick Gold

John Spears, Business Reporter

Toronto Star

28 April 2010

Mark Ekepa journeyed from Papua New Guinea to tell the shareholders of Barrick Gold Corp. how police had burned down his house near the Barrick's Porgera mine.

Idolia Bornones travelled from Chile to say that Barrick operations are damaging local glaciers and rivers.

But Barrick chairman Peter Munk was unrepentant as he faced the company's annual meeting.

Even before the visitors had a chance to speak, Munk delivered an unapologetic defence of Barrick's role in improving the lives of people around the world.

Munk told shareholders that corporate social responsibility is "part of our DNA."

"By moving into these countries and developing their mines, we provide - way beyond the importance of money - we provide human dignity," Munk said.

"We provide an opportunity for these people to earn their money, rather than hold out their hands and depend on charity."

Munk said Barrick's wage bill is $4 billion a year - often paying four to six times the average local wage.

He said the presidents of Chile, Argentina and the Domincan Republic have each told him: "Please, please, please Barrick, please put your money into our country."

Munk decried what he called a "rogue element" among some non-government agencies that want to halt all development.

"What can they offer to those 20,000 people we employ?" he said. "What are the people going to do? Line up for social benefits in the remote hills of Tanzania or Peru? There ain't none."

Idolia Bordones said she doesn't want Barrick's money, however.

Bordones raises crops and bakes bread in the Huasco Valley, near the Pascua-Lama project, which is still in development. She's part of a community of 250 indigenous families in "the last unpolluted valley of northern Chile."

Dust from the project is blackening glaciers, causing them to melt, she said, and is harming local wetlands and forest.

"We do not need your money, and we are not seeking compensation," she said. "We just want you to leave our lands and allow us to live in peace."

Barrick's chief executive, Aaron Regent, said the company treats all water used in mining, and said it complies with quality standards.

He said there is "overwhelming" local support for the project, and the company has 150,000 names in a database of those who have applied for work.

Ekepa said that in Papua New Guinea, the Porgera Mine disrupted the local economy based on alluvial mining - washing fine gold out of river sediment.

Unlike Chile, many local residents are seeking compensation because their houses are close to the mine. There have also been clashes with local police - not related to the mine-whom Epeka said burned down his house.

He said he would like Barrick to support an investigation into police actions, and wants the company to resettle landowners who are close to the mine. Regent said police moved in to the area because of general lawlessness.

Company officials say compensation and resettlement claims are difficult to assess because new people have flooded into the area, many of them squatting on land to which others have a legal claim.

The company reported strong first quarter results Wednesday, with gold production up 19 per cent to 2.08 million ounces. Costs declined, while prices for both gold and copper rose. Barrick realized $1,114 an ounce on its gold sales.

Net profit was a record $758 million or 77 cents a share on sales of $2.561 billion. That compared with net profit of $371 million or 42 cents a share on sales of $1.775 billion a year ago.

Barrick Gold CEO tells shareholders gold benefits from global financial turmoil

By David Friend

The Canadian Press

28 April 2010

TORONTO - Barrick Gold Corp. says higher prices and increased production helped the Canadian-based gold giant achieve record earnings in the first quarter.

The world's biggest gold miner reported Wednesday that its net income more than doubled to US$758 million, or 76 cents per share, beating analyst expectations of 62.3 cents per share, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The results, reported in U.S. dollars, are a significant increase from profits of $371 million, or 42 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Sales also beat analyst expectations, rising to $2.6 billion from $1.8 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Barrick's quarterly results were helped by bullion prices, which have hovered around US$1,100 an ounce so far this year. Barrick's average realized gold price was $1,114 per ounce, an increase of 22 per cent from a year earlier.

Chief executive Aaron Regent told investors at the company's annual meeting in Toronto that he believes gold will continue to serve as a safe haven as economic uncertainty prevails and affects the value of international currencies, stocks and bonds.

"These factors, combined with risk aversion over escalating sovereign credit worries in Europe, position gold to benefit as investors and central banks look for alternatives to major currencies of the world," Regent said.

During the quarter, gold production was up 19 per cent to 2.08 million ounces at a cost of $442 per ounce.

The company said it was on track with its guidance to increase production to between 7.6 million and eight million ounces this year, with costs between US$425 and US$455 per ounce.

"We are anticipating lower costs in 2010, which reflects the increased contribution from our lower-cost mines," Regent said.

"This trend is expected to continue as we bring on Pueblo Viejo and Pascua-Lama over the next three years."

Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic is expected to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2011, while Pascua-Lama on the border between Argentina and Chile, should begin operations in the first quarter of 2013.

Barrick stock was up $1.60 or 3.86 per cent at $43.03 at midday Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange in trading that saw more than 4.3 million shares change hands.

After the annual meeting, representatives for the indigenous people of the Huasco Valley in Chile held a protest against Barrick's development in their communities.

The group alleges that Barrick has wrongfully received approval for its Pascua Lama project from the state without permission from the local community, and that the development has subsequently caused environmental damage. The indigenous community has two lawsuits pending against Barrick in Chile.

Barrick founder and chairman Peter Munk addressed protests against some of the company's operations, noting that he sees a "growing rogue element" intended to stop development plans.

"We are attacked continuously and we are attacked often by a very noisy and very articulate opposition," Munk told shareholders.

"We equally have to stand up (to) those who are just, on principle, against any kind of development, and instead of working constructively with us to create an improved and better mining operation... they say 'Whatever you do, we don't want you."'

Munk told the annual meeting he believes Barrick offers opportunities, like education and employment, to people in remote regions of the world that otherwise wouldn't be available.

The indigenous representatives attended the annual meeting and said they disagreed with the company.

"Most of the people working at the mine do not live in the valley - they are bringing people from the outside," said Idolia del Carmen Bordones Jorquera through a translator.

She said Barrick has also brought in people from outside the community and put them in positions of power to sway opinion in favour of the company.

Barrick has mines and development projects in North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

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