April 29, 2015 / 7:18 AM / 2 years ago

Barrick Gold takes backseat at Australia's Super Pit

SYDNEY, April 29 (Reuters) - Canada’s Barrick Gold will relinquish some management duties at Australia’s Super Pit gold mine to partner Newmont Mining, in a further pull-back from operations in the Southern Hemisphere

Barrick, the world’s biggest gold producer, has already sold three mines in Australia and is taking bids on a fourth in a bid to lower net debt by about $3 billion. It is also trying to sell the Porgera gold mine in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

Barrick had about $13 billion in debt at the end of 2014.

Barrick and Denver-based Newmont have long been 50-50 partners in the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM), which operates the Super Pit, at one stage Australia’s biggest gold mine.

The companies had agreed that due to Barrick’s reduced presence in Australia, Newmont would “provide greater direction and support to operation of the mine”, KCGM acting general manager Ian Butler said in comments emailed to Reuters.

The ownership structure of the operation would not change, Butler said.

Australian gold mines are changing hands at a fast clip at a turning point in the gold cycle, according to analysts and mining executives.

After years of losing money or just breaking even, many are back in the black thanks in part to a weakening Australian dollar.

Evolution Mining is looking to buy more gold mines after reaching a $230 million deal to acquire two locally producing mines from Luxembourg-based La Mancha Group International BV.

Northern Star Resources has said it was in a position to make “value accretive acquisitions” after acquiring Barrick’s Plutonic mine in late 2013 for A$28 million, while copper-focused Oz Minerals has also said it was looking at buying gold mines.

In Australian dollar terms gold has risen 25 percent since last November, while U.S. dollar gold XAU= has climbed less than 2 percent.

The S&P/ASX All Ordinaries Gold index index tracking Australian gold producers has risen more than 30 percent this year. ($1 = 1.2023 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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