Barrick expects to meet annual targets despite coronavirus-led lockdowns

Souvenir luggage tags are displayed at a Barrick Gold Corp at the PDAC annual conference in Toronto

(Reuters) – Barrick Gold said on Thursday it was on track to meet its full-year production targets even as it reported an 8.5% drop in first-quarter gold output due to the impact of coronavirus-driven lockdowns.

The mining industry has been bracing for a prolonged drop in commodity prices and has been worried that the coronavirus outbreak could fuel a rare simultaneous drop in both supply and demand for metals used to power the global economy.

Barrick posted gold production of 1.25 million ounces for the first quarter, compared with 1.37 million ounces a year earlier.

The miner said copper output from its three mines – Lumwana in Zambia, Zaldivar in Chile and Jabal Sayid in Saudi Arabia – rose 8.5% from a year earlier to 115 million pounds, adding that sales of the metal also improved in the quarter.

“These results positioned Barrick well to achieve its guidance for the year despite the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow said.

Barrick, the world’s second-largest gold miner with operations across the globe, had forecast full-year attributable gold production in the range of 4.8 million ounces to 5.2 million ounces and copper production between 440 million pounds and 500 million pounds.

The miner, however, warned that realized prices for copper in the first quarter were expected to be between 12% and 14% below the market price as the pandemic brought economic activity to a virtual standstill.

Barrick said last month it would stockpile key commodities to prepare for the possibility that the virus outbreak could shutter its mines.

The miner is slated to announce its first-quarter results on May 6, 2020.

(Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)