UPDATE 1-Barrick says focus on gold, no plans to boost copper position
(Adds further details from call)
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO Feb 19 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold said on Thursday it is focused on gold mining and has no plans to boost its copper operations.
"Our focus is gold. We have no plans to diversify into other metals, and we have no plans to add to our existing copper position," Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton told investors on the company's earnings conference call.
Barrick on Wednesday said it would sell its Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea and its Cowal gold mine in Australia to help reduce net debt by at least $3 billion by year-end, giving investors a long-awaited glimpse into its strategy.
The company also said it is working with Zambian authorities to resolve concerns over a new royalty structure.
Simmering disputes over taxes have threatened investment in Africa's second-biggest copper producer. Barrick, which owns the Lumwana copper mine, in December said it was initiating moves to suspend operations at the mine after the passage of legislation that raised the royalty rate on the country's open pit mining operations from six percent to 20 percent.
On Thursday Kelvin Dushnisky, Barrick's co-president, said he had a constructive meeting this week with the newly elected president of Zambia and his ministers of finance and mines.
"I am encouraged by the progress we made but there is no definitive solution yet," said Dushnisky. "We agreed to work expeditiously to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome that would allow Lumwana to remain in operation - that is our hope, but if we cannot reach an acceptable solution, we will commence suspension in March." (Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)
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