Bar­rick Gold re­treats from dig­i­tal rein­ven­tion

CEO plans to sell va­ri­ety of non-core as­sets, cut costs and shrink head of­fice lead­er­ship

The Niagara Falls Review - - The Wall Street Journal - AL­IS­TAIR MAC­DON­ALD AND JACQUIE MC­NISH

Bar­rick Gold Corp., the world’s largest gold miner, is sell­ing a re­search and devel­op­ment com­pany it owns and is cut­ting staff hired to lead what ex­ec­u­tives had called a dig­i­tal rein­ven­tion, cham­pi­oned by Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man John Thorn­ton, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

The move comes shortly af­ter the com­pany agreed to buy Rand­gold Re­sources Ltd. for $6 bil­lion (U.S.) in an all-share merger—a move that would so­lid­ify Bar­rick as the world’s largest gold pro­ducer by out­put.

That merger is set to close next month, and in­com­ing Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Mark Bris­tow has said he plans to sell a va­ri­ety of non­core as­sets, cut costs and shrink head­of­fice man­age­ment in an ef­fort to del­e­gate more au­thor­ity to re­gional min­ing op­er­a­tions.

One of the first as­sets to go on the block is Bar­rick-owned AuTec In­no­va­tive Ex­trac­tive So­lu­tions Ltd., a Van­cou­ver-based com­pany that spe­cial­izes in test­ing min­eral sam­ples and pro­cess­ing, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

In re­cent months, Bar­rick has also dis­banded or shrunk tech­nol­ogy based teams at its head of­fice in Toronto and at its min­ing op­er­a­tions in Ne­vada, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

The teams were launched by Mr. Thorn­ton to de­velop things like soft­ware that tracked sen­sors on un­der­ground min­ing staff, or col­lected data on pro­cess­ing equip­ment that could help pre­dict when main­te­nance was needed, ac­cord­ing to th­ese peo­ple.

Progress on the projects had been slow, a se­nior Bar­rick of­fi­cial told the me­dia late last year.

Last month, Sham Cho­tai, the miner’s chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer and a for­mer Sil­i­con Val­ley ex­ec­u­tive, left the com­pany, ac­cord­ing to an­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

Bar­rick also cut by around two-thirds its in-house cod­ing hub in Elko, Ne­vada, and cut staff at s sis­ter site at Hen­der­son, Ne­vada, ac­cord­ing to th­ese peo­ple. The miner had de­scribed Elko as “the epi­cen­ter for Bar­rick’s am­bi­tious dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion” on its web­site.

Bar­rick said in Septem­ber that it was part­ing with its chief of in­no­va­tion, Michelle Ashe. All but three of her Toronto-based team of 20 have also left the com­pany, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

Peo­ple work­ing on Bar­rick’s dig­i­ti­za­tion pro­gram said that while the project started well it lacked con­sis­tent sup­port at the board­room level and fund­ing was soon cut, one of the peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

A Bar­rick spokesman said in a state­ment that tech­nol­ogy “will con­tinue to be a key driver” as it looks to shrink cor­po­rate man­age­ment and eval­u­ate all jobs.

Bar­rick also re­cently hired bankers to sell its La­gu­nas Norte gold mine in Peru, other peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

The com­pany is also re­view­ing a pos­si­ble sale of its Hemlo gold mine in Canada and its 50% stake in its Kal­go­or­lie mine in Aus­tralia, th­ese peo­ple said. Bar­rick has in the past tried to sell th­ese mines, or said that it will.

NATHAN DENETTE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Bar­rick is cut­ting staff hired to lead what ex­ec­u­tives called a dig­i­tal rein­ven­tion, cham­pi­oned by ex­ec­u­tive chair John Thorn­ton.

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