(Recasts with Barrick executive interview, stock price, analyst comment)
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp hopes to develop a “steady stream” of projects on its land in the El Indio belt in Argentina, making it the likeliest candidate for a partnership deal, a top executive said in an interview on Thursday.
Toronto-based Barrick is open to offers to buy or take stakes in its five major mines, including Veladero in Argentina, President Kelvin Dushnisky also said earlier, after Reuters reported the company had held talks with Chinese miners.
China’s Zijin Mining and Shandong Gold Mining have held separate discussions with Barrick about buying a 50 percent stake in Veladero, according to four sources with knowledge of the process.
Two sources had told Reuters that Barrick would like the buyer of a stake in Veladero to also invest in neighboring Pascua-Lama, which straddles the border of Argentina and Chile.
El Indio, a 140-km (87-mile) stretch of land, is home to Veladero and Barrick’s Pascua-Lama and Alturas projects.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll have a steady stream of projects over the years that we develop in the El Indio belt and that would be an area where it would make a lot of sense for us to bring in a partner,” Dushnisky said in the phone interview.
“I would signal that the El Indio area is one that would probably be a more likely candidate at this point.”
Partnership deals allow miners to combine capital, technical expertise and other abilities, he said, adding that more such deals can be expected.
Dushnisky would not say if other miners had approached Barrick about investing in Veladero or the timing of any deal.
Last year, Barrick sold a stake in its Papua New Guinean mine to Zijin, and the two companies formed a partnership. Barrick has committed to work with Zijin at the mine for five years, Dushnisky said.
Barrick is also considering opportunities to acquire assets but will be “discerning,” he said. The company has been selling off assets and using cash flow to pay down debt.
Barrick’s 50 percent stake in the Kalgoorlie Super Pit mine in western Australia has drawn “robust” interest from miners in and outside that country since it went on the block last quarter, Dushnisky said.
Newmont Mining, which operates Kalgoorlie and owns the other 50 percent, has expressed interest in the acquisition, but differing views on valuation have thwarted a deal.
Barrick reported a higher-than-expected profits on Wednesday. The stock ended up 1.4 percent on Thursday at $C22.55. (Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jonathan Oatis)