The North Mara and Bulyanhulu gold mines both produced near the top end of their production guidance in 2020, their first full year under Barrick’s management. Including Buzwagi, the Tanzanian assets delivered a combined output of 462,472 ounces for the year.
The mines have been successfully revived, with North Mara delivering significant improvements and underground production restarted at Bulyanhulu. The mines, managed through the Twiga joint venture with the Government of Tanzania, paid a maiden dividend of $250 million in October 2020.
North Mara posted a record throughput in Q4 and Bulyanhulu recommenced processing of underground ore during the quarter. Bulyanhulu is scheduled to be in full production by the second half of 2021, when its ramp-up is completed. Both mines performed creditably on the health, safety and environmental front, with Bulyanhulu gaining ISO 14001 certification for the first time.
Speaking at a briefing for local media at the Bulyanhulu mine, Barrick president and chief executive Mark Bristow said the mines’ strong performance was the product of the speed and effectiveness with which the company’s Africa and Middle East regional team was unlocking the unrealized value of these assets, despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These mines are now very different businesses. North Mara’s Life of Mine production profile has been vastly improved and implementation of its comprehensive water management plan is on track. Bulyanhulu’s resurrection was a particularly exceptional achievement, considering that both its shaft and plant had to be refurbished extensively. The new mine plan delivers a sustainable long-term value-driven operation,” Bristow said.
“We’re optimizing our 10-year plan to make the combined North Mara and Bulyanhulu mines the seventh Tier One complex in the Barrick portfolio by bringing them into the lower half of the industry’s cost curve. At the same time, the combined total of Mineral Resources for North Mara and Bulyanhulu grew, net of depletion, compared to 2019 on the back of fixing the legacy geological models and supporting data. Subsequently, the complete re-optimization of the mine plans for the potential Tier One complex is underway and is expected to deliver further growth. Concurrently, we continue to improve relations with our host communities, securing Barrick’s social licence to operate in Tanzania. Past grievances have been resolved and the remaining land legacy issues are being addressed. Fully functional community development committees have been established to focus on education, health, water and agribusiness, and 21 agribusiness groups from 11 villages are already being supported at North Mara. Barrick also proved its value as a partner through its tangible support for the government’s pandemic containment campaign.”
During 2020, Barrick invested $800 million in the Tanzanian economy in the form of taxes, permits, infrastructure development, salaries and payments to local suppliers. In line with its groupwide policy of employing host country nationals, the company continued to recruit locally, with over 600 new workers employed during the year at Bulyanhulu alone.
Tanzanian nationals now make up 96% of the mines’ total workforce. Capital and exploration expenditures exceeded $180 million for the year, of which half related to growth projects, and this investment is continuing into 2021.
Bristow said Tanzania’s large-scale mineralized systems held the potential for world-class discoveries and, in addition to brownfields exploration designed to increase and convert the existing mines’ resources, Barrick had also initiated greenfields programs to generate new targets.