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Mar 28, 2017

Goldcorp buys Exeter, teams with Barrick on Chile mining projects

Goldcorp and Barrick partner on Chile mine projects

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Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) will team up with larger peer Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) to work on developing gold mines in northern Chile, it said on Tuesday, as the industry starts to invest in new projects again.

To reduce development costs and risks, the companies will form a 50-50 joint venture to study building gold mines in Chile's Maricunga belt, Goldcorp said. That includes the Cerro Casale project, which is one of the world's biggest undeveloped gold deposits.

After five years of painful belt-tightening as the price of gold fell, the industry's biggest companies have started to loosen their purse strings to build mines and find new deposits to replenish falling production and reserves.

The transaction fits Goldcorp's strategy of teaming up with other big miners to develop large deposits to share the cost and technical risk. Barrick, the world's highest-valued gold miner, has also frequently spoken of the value of industry partnerships.

Barrick and others suffered high-profile cost blowouts on developments during the last boom.

"The last thing the industry needs is another Sudbury, another Nevada, where you are building duplicate infrastructure on the same deposits," Goldcorp Chief Executive Officer David Garofalo said in an interview.

As part of a complex series of transactions costing Goldcorp about US$445 million upfront, the Vancouver-based company has agreed to buy fellow Canadian miner Kinross Gold's 25 percent stake in Cerro Casale and all of its Quebrada Seca exploration project for an initial US$260 million in cash.

Simultaneously, Goldcorp will also buy mine exploration and development company Exeter Resource Corp and its flagship Caspiche project 10 km (6 miles) north of Cerro Casale for about US$185 million in stock.

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Goldcorp will also acquire a 25 per cent stake in Cerro Casale from Barrick, whose holding in the project will decrease to 50 per cent from 75 per cent. The company will pay for the stake by funding all initial expenditures on Cerro Casale and by contributing the Caspiche project into the joint venture.

Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky said the company looked forward to the "fresh perspective" Goldcorp could bring to the Cerro Casale project. The agreement also meant Barrick could direct its capital to other ventures while retaining exposure to the big deposit, he said in a statement.

Cerro Casale contains proven and probable reserves of 23.2 million ounces of gold and 58.7 million ounces of silver. It also contains 5.8 billion pounds of copper.

A February 2010 feasibility study on Cerro Casale by Kinross envisaged a large open pit mine with a 20-year life and a heap leach processing operation.

A decision on whether to go ahead with mine construction is five to seven years away, Garofalo said, noting that Goldcorp and Barrick must still do several years of studies.

Kinross will enter into a water supply agreement with the joint venture as part of the sale, it said in a statement.

The company suspended operations at its Maricunga gold mine in Chile last August after a regulator's decision to shut down the water system to the mine on environmental grounds.

Kinross said it expected to use the sale proceeds for in-house projects and to strengthen its balance sheet.

Goldcorp partnered with diversified miner Teck Resources (TECKb.TO) in 2015 to develop neighboring mines in Chile to cut costs on building roads and other infrastructure, and to reduce their environmental footprint.