(Corrects fifth paragraph to show that post-merger, Barrick will have five top-tier mines, not four)
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Nov 5 (Reuters) - If all goes according to plan, Barrick Gold will have fewer mines and workers one year after acquiring Africa-focused Randgold Resources, the Canadian miner’s executive chairman said on Monday, as its investors approved the deal.
Votes were 99.8 percent in favor of the $6.1 billion, no-premium transaction, Toronto-based Barrick said, confirming a Reuters report. After Randgold’s Nov. 7 vote, the deal is seen closing on Jan. 1, 2019.
“Ideally, we will have sold certain assets that don’t fit ... that’s number one,” Barrick Chairman John Thornton said, describing how he wants the combined company to look in a year. “Number two, we will be demonstrably more efficient.”
If conditions are right, Thornton said he would like to replicate the deal-making pace he set when Barrick sold all or part of seven assets over 18 months.
After the merger, Barrick will focus on low-cost mines producing 500,000 ounces of gold annually with at least 10 years of operations. It currently has five such mines.
It is also poised for further streamlining under Mark Bristow, who currently runs Randgold and will become CEO of the combined company.
While Barrick has reduced administrative jobs from 1,400 to about 300, Randgold has only seven people at its head office, Thornton said. Barrick will not cut that far, but is considering the ideal size, he added.
“When I arrived, Barrick was running a four-hour marathon. Maybe now they’re running it at two hours and 55 minutes. You know the world record is two hours, one minute and 39 seconds, right? That’s where it’s headed,” he said.
“To get there, just by picking up the pace, there’ll be a self-selection process. Some people will say this is highly motivating ... and some people will say this is not for me, I just don’t want to run that fast.”
Bristow will study each mine in detail, determine how they should best operate and make employees accountable for that performance - an accountability task Thornton said he will relinquish, focusing on asset sales.
Barrick is in “essentially constant communication” with such potential partners as Newmont Mining Corp and Chinese miners, he added, so that deals can close quickly when the timing and price is right.
It is equally important that Bristow resolve an acrimonious tax dispute for Barrick’s Acacia Mining unit, Thornton said.
The Tanzanian government has accused Acacia, the country’s largest gold miner, of tax evasion. Acacia has denied any wrongdoing.
Thornton would not say if Barrick will buy out the 31.9 percent stake it does not own in Acacia, but suggested the timing is inopportune. (Reporting by Susan Taylor Editing by Paul Simao and Susan Thomas)