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Mar 7, 2016

Goldcorp’s CEO says goodbye to growth

How the new Goldcorp CEO plans to tackle the company's challenges

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Flat is the new growth in the precious metals sector as miners struggle to find new shovel-ready deposits and attract young people to the profession, according the new CEO of Goldcorp Inc (G.TO).

David Garofalo says those worrisome shortfalls coincide with a tough environment where easily accessed near-surface deposits are scarce, the average grade of what comes out of the ground continues to fall, and mining companies have no choice but to ramp up the size of their operations to maintain their output.

“We were a high growth stock for a long period of time, but I would say flat is the new growth in the gold sector,” said Garofalo in an interview with BNN at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.

Garofalo, who stepped into the top job at the world’s fourth largest gold producer just last week, says cultivating the next generation of projects will need grassroots exploration. In other words, people need to invest in the increasingly risky junior mining space.

“That’s an opportunity for us to put capital to work with juniors. Take a portfolio approach to what is the highest risk component of value creation in the mining space – grassroots exploration,” he said. “That’s been true to my core strategy personally. I think Goldcorp has the core competencies to deliver on that strategy as well.”

Garofalo has a track record of acquiring and adding value to early stage projects. He joined HudBay Minerals Inc. (HBM.TO 0.00%) in 2010, adding three mines though investments in junior companies. Prior to that, Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM.TO) grew from a one mine operation to a global giant during his tenure as chief financial officer.

The junior mining space has fallen on hard times since then. The top 100 juniors raised $514 million in equity financing in 2015, down 25 percent from the previous year, while debt financing fell 27 percent to $278 million over the same period, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Investment dollars aren’t the only thing that’s shrinking in the mining industry.

“We have a huge demographic bulge of people that are retiring over the next decade, and we can’t hope to replace them. That doesn’t bode well for replacing our reserves in the ground,” said Garofalo.

According to Statistics Canada and the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, over 40 percent of the workforce is over 50 years old.

Garofalo says the top ten producers will shrink their production by eight percent over the next three years. Goldcorp expects its production to top out at 3.4 to 3.7 million ounces in 2017, and decline after that. The Vancouver-based company has eight projects currently on the drawing board, but many of them are aimed at optimizing its existing portfolio of mines.

“Large, near-surface, and high-grade deposits have been largely found. We’ve had to make our business bigger as a result, scale them up to deliver the economies of scale that will offset declining grades. The average gold grade today is about a third of what it was 10 year ago,” he said.