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ICSID Issues Decision in Favor of Antofagasta plc and Barrick in Reko Diq Arbitration Proceedings

The arid Reko Diq region

Exciting news for Barrick and Antofagasta, after years of frustration. B&A reportedly spent US$500 million on this project and were refused a mining lease and licence to operate by the Government of Baluchistan. Compensation for loss is going to be a most interesting hearing. This is a remarkably robust project and a very long lived mine. This is why we offered B&A US$200 million a few years ago in an attempt to resolve the matter – Good for them they they stuck out the challenge of arbitration.

TORONTO, March 21, 2017 — Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE:ABX)(TSX:ABX) (“Barrick” or the “Company”) announced that an arbitration tribunal of the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) yesterday issued a decision on the arbitration claims that Tethyan Copper Company Pty Limited (“TCC”), a joint venture between Antofagasta plc and Barrick, filed against the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in relation to the unlawful denial of a mining lease for the Reko Diq project in 2011.

Yesterday’s decision by the ICSID tribunal rejected Pakistan’s final defense against liability, and confirmed that Pakistan had violated several provisions of its bilateral investment treaty with Australia, where TCC is incorporated.

The damages phase of the proceedings will begin on March 22, during which the tribunal will consider submissions from the parties to determine the amount that Pakistan must pay TCC. A ruling on the quantum of damages is expected in 2018.

The Reko Diq project, located in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, was expected to require an initial capital investment of more than $3 billion. It is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, with a potential mine life of more than 50 years.

Commentary

Mineralisation in the Reko Diq area

 

Reko Diq is a large (10×10 km) volcano-magmatic complex located in the western Chagai magmatic belt in Pakistan. Over 48 porphyry Cu-Au centres are recognized in the Chagai belt. Twenty of them, including the world-class H14-H15 cluster, are located in the Reko Diq district. These deposits are largely associated with four consecutive episodes of magmatism during the Miocene. The porphyry centres are characterized by stocks and dyke swarms of diorite, quartz diorite and granodiorite composition. The deposits offer no technological development challenges. Reko Diq is located 50 kilometres to the east of the 300 million tonne Saindak porphyry copper gold deposit being operated by Metallurgical Corporation of China since 2002 under a lease agreement with the Government of Pakistan.

Deposit Geology

The Reko Diq porphyry district hosts a cluster of 20 Cu-Au porphyry centres in an area approximately 10×10 km bounded by the NW trending fault systems of Drana Koh in the north and Tuzgi Koh in the south.

The underlying volcano-sedimentary rocks at Reko Diq consist of thin-bedded shale, siltstone, shallow marine to fluviatile sandstone and minor discontinuous conglomerate and lava flow of the late Oligocene Dalbandin and Eocene Saindak Formations. The porphyry Cu-Au centres at Reko Diq are spatially and genetically associated with early to late Miocene calc-alkaline diorite, quartz diorite and granodiorite intrusions.

Hydrothermal alteration at Reko Diq is typical of porphyry Cu deposits. The porphyry centres at H14-H15 are characterized by a central potassic zone surrounded by phyllic (quartz-sericite-pyrite) and outer propylitic (chlorite-epidote) alteration. The main ore stage (chalcopyrite±bornite) mineralization is generally disseminated in host the porphyries and occurs in veinlets with a total sulphide content of 2-3 vol. percent. The chalcopyrite to pyrite ratio decreases at shallow levels. A distinct late stage pyrite+chacopyrite±molybdenite assemblage associated with D-veins is common in most of the porphyry systems at Reko Diq. The bornite to chalcopyrite ratio increases with the intensity of potassic alteration and magnetite content, which gives rise to higher Cu-Au grades (0.8% Cu; 0.6 g/t Au) in the deep central part of the deposits. A high sulfidation type assemblage of covellite+bornite+pyrite in association with quartz+sericite±kaolinite alteration is identified mainly in the sandstone and conglomerate units of the H15 system. Overall, a metal zoning from Cu-Au at the center and depth with potassic alteration and increasing Mo in the margins and upper parts of the porphyry system at H14-H15, can be defined.

The supergene oxidation is commonly very weak in the district with leached zone of less than a few meters. The only supergene enriched Cu blanket at Reko Diq is preserved in the central Tanjeel porphyry Cu deposit in which an irregular, 50 to 100m-thick chalcocite blanket, is developed beneath a 40-50m-thick leached cap dominated by jarosite and local hematite. The chalcocite blanket (0.5-1.0% Cu) has a gradational lower contact with low grade hypogene Cu-Fe-sulfide mineralization at depth.

Exploration History

Regional exploration for porphyry copper mineralization was initiated in 1993, when BHP Minerals signed a joint venture mineral exploration agreement with the Baluchistan Development Authority, over an area of 13,000 km2. Following an orientation survey over the Saindak deposit, regional geochemical exploration using −80 mesh and the bulk leachable gold (BLEG) method was conducted from 1993 to 1995, with the collection of approximately 5,000 samples. Sixteen anomalous areas were defined and follow-up work, including geologic mapping and standard rock geochemistry, was carried out over them. This work delineated 14 prospective areas, of which Reko Diq, Ziarat Pir Sultan, Ting-Dargun, Kirtaka, Machi, Dasht-e-Kain, Koh-i-Sultan, Durban Chah, and Ganshero were judged to be the most promising. Additional mapping, rock geochemistry, and ground magnetics were completed from 1996 to 1998, followed by 20,000 m of reverse circulation and core drilling. This program resulted in the discovery of the Reko Diq porphyry copper cluster, including the supergene enrichment blanket at Tanjeel (originally named H4) and the nearby hypogene copper-gold deposits at H14-H15 (also referred to as Western Porphyries), H8, and H13.

Geophysical surveys, both induced polarization and magnetics, were completed over them. These and other targets were drilled in several short programs during 2003 to 2006, for a total of approximately 48,000 m, including 24,000 m of infill drilling at Tanjeel. The new resource for Tanjeel, announced in late 2006, was 126 million metric tons (Mt) at 0.7 percent Cu, all leachable supergene-enriched sulfides. In 2006, a joint venture between Antofagasta Minerals S.A. and Barrick Gold Corp. acquired 100 percent of Tethyan Copper Company and its 75 percent interest in the Reko Diq and regional licenses and initiated an aggressive infill drilling program and scoping study at H14-H15. Resource drilling during 2006 to 2009 at Reko Diq totaled approximately 136,000 m resulting in completion of a feasibility study during 2010 for a 110,000 tonne per day operation producing copper-gold concentrate for export.

Reserves and Resources

Reko Diq is one of the largest known undeveloped copper-gold porphyries with resources of 5.9 billion tonnes at 0.41% copper and 0.22 g/t gold for 54 billion pounds of copper and 42 million ounces of gold. Within this resource is a high grade zone with 400 million tonnes at 0.9% copper and 0.6 g/t gold and a supergene resource at Tanjeel of 214 million tonnes at 0.6% copper. Significant potential exists within the Reko Diq porphyry cluster for expansion of this resource and a number of targets remain only lightly explored.

Reko diq resources – a very significant deposit

 

Planned Development

The planned development included a conventional open pit mining operation utilizing hydraulic face shovels and trucks feeding a conventional concentrator utilizing industry standard crushing, grinding and flotation. Tailings will be deposited in a engineered TMF.

Location of the Reko diq deposit and infrastructure – or lack therof

 

Power will be provided by a purpose-built 190 MW power station adjacent to the mill faculty.

The Reko Diq deposit produces a clean high grade concentrate with 28-31% copper and 7-22 g/t gold. Concentrate at a 52% pulp density will be pumped via a 682 km buried slurry pipeline to the port of Gwadar presently being redeveloped by a Chinese company.

At Gwadar Port a de-watering facility using high pressure filters will produce a concentrate with 7.5% water, which will be conveyed to a portside warehouse. A conveyor and ship loader will also be constructed.

Project Cashflow Analysis

Cmi Capital constructed a cashflow model based upon available information with costs from comparable recent projects. Two models were evaluated, a base case model with an open pit mine and conventional mill treating 120,000 tonnes per day (TPD) and an expanded model with a production rate of 200,000 TPD after year 5. These models with mine lives of 30 years consume only 21% to 33% respectively of the existing resource. In addition there is potential for the exploitation of higher grades in the early years, the discovery of additional reserves and the addition of a dump leach SXEW facility to treat the large Tanjeel supergene copper deposit (240 Mt at 0.6% leachable copper).

This analysis (with the cashflow models limited to 30 years) indicates that Reko Diq is an economically robust, long life project as can be seen below (metal prices used were a few years ago).

  • Copper Production: 162,000 to 257,000 TPY
  • Gold Production: 260KOz to 408kOz PA
  • NPV (08): US$2 to 3.4 billion (at long term metal pricing)
  • IRR: 15% to 17%

An outstanding project that has potential to significantly improve the outcomes for the peoples of Baluchistan and bring much needed development to a very challenging part of the country.