Lower gold prices led to $16 billion in losses for trio of mining companies

February 17, 2014

For three of the largest gold mining companies in the world, Barrick Gold Corp., Kinross Gold and Goldcorp, 2013 was a tough year. The companies recently reported annual losses that combined to about $16 billion.

The price of gold fell by 27 percent in 2013, forcing numerous changes on the sector and some of the major mining projects around the world. 

The three companies also slashed their estimated reserves by between 15 percent and 33 percent, responding to lower gold prices that have compelled miners to reassess the worth of their assets still in the ground, The Financial Times reported. Barrick said it would cut output by up to 16 percent this year, retreating further from years of growth that made it the world’s largest miner of the precious metal.

There are signs of a rally in 2014 with the price of gold climbing 9.5 percent in early 2014, however, gold miners are having to assume they will get lower prices for their output than a year ago and are scrambling to reduce costs that soared during a decade of expansion in the mining industry.

“The reality is that our industry is cyclical and we need to provide returns in any price environment,” Jamie Sokalsky, chief executive of Barrick told The Financial Times for a report published Feb. 14.

Because it is driven by jewelery and as an investment the demand for gold is less predictable than other commodities. But, since 2001 the price climbed each year until 2013 leading to more challenging mining projects.

One of those projects is Barrick’s Pascua-Lama mine in Argentina and Chile. The company suspended construction there in 2013 while it sorts through permitting issues at the mine.

Barrick reported a quarterly net loss of $2.8 billion after a similar amount of impairments linked to Pascua Lama and other mines. They contributed to a $10.3 billionn annual loss at the group.

Last year Barrick also had to raise $3bn in equity to cut its debt burden.

Barrick said it would cut capital spending by about half this year but warned that overall operating costs might rise by 7 percent because of lower output from one of its larger mines.

Kinross and Goldcorp, two other Canadian companies that are also among the world’s half-dozen largest gold miners, were also hit by charges because of lower gold prices.

Kinross unveiled a $3 billion annual loss after $2.3 billion of impairments last year. Goldcorp was hit by a $763 million tax charge after Mexico changed its tax laws for miners and lost $1.1 billion in the last three months, leading to a $2.7 billion net loss for 2013.

Goldcorp is making a $2.4 billion hostile bid for Osisko, a fellow Canadian miner.


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