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Barrick Gold Corp. ABX-T has overhauled its global exploration department, as several stalwart executives retire from the world’s second biggest mining company in the midst of a difficult time for the industry.

Mark Bristow, the chief executive officer of Barrick Gold Corp., said in an interview that he’d recently made a slew of personnel changes as the Toronto-based miner navigates a deep and protracted downturn.

“I’ve changed, in the last six months, the entire exploration leadership, apart from the exploration manager in Nevada,” he said in an interview following the release of the company’s second-quarter results.

“It’s a core part of our business. Exploration is like R&D. You have to reinvent it regularly,” he said.

Finding new economic gold deposits is a cornerstone of Barrick’s long-term growth plan. Over the past few years, Barrick has largely shunned large-scale mergers and acquisitions, and instead is increasingly spending on exploration. For example, this year’s exploration budget at Barrick’s Donlin gold project in Alaska, which it co-owns with Novagold Resources Inc., is the biggest in a decade at $60-million between the partners.

Mr. Bristow characterized the turnover in the company’s exploration team – half of which comes from internal promotions and the rest from external hires – as normal, and in fact essential to the company’s success.

Barrick has also seen three high-profile executives announce their departures in recent months.

Greg Walker, executive managing director with Nevada Gold Mines, is retiring at the end of the year, and will be replaced by Peter Richardson, who was formerly chief operating officer at base metals miner Lundin Mining Corp.

Rod Quick, an executive responsible for mineral resource management and exploration, who worked alongside alongside with Mr. Bristow for 27 years, is also leaving, and will be replaced by his colleague, Simon Bottoms. “Rod feels he needs to take some time off,” said Mr. Bristow. “He’s given me 120 per cent.”

Also retiring from Barrick is Willem Jacobs, COO for its Africa and Middle East operations. Mr. Jacobs, who is in his 60s, recently had a bad bout with COVID-19. He too has a long history of working with Mr. Bristow, both at Barrick and previously at Rangold Resources Ltd.

Mr. Bristow himself shows no intentions of slowing down despite being a similar age to Mr. Jacobs, and in spite of the hostile industry environment. Gold miners are out of a favour in part because of rapidly rising interest rates makes zero-yielding bullion less attractive. In addition, inflation has started to eat into the costs of major miners like Barrick.

Mr. Bristow says he’s not put off in the slightest by the hostile fundamentals.

“I’ve been here before,” he said. “If you want me to break into tears and curl up into a little ball, it’s not going to happen.”

Barrick is also dealing with several company-specific issues, it said Monday, such as higher-than-expected costs for its expansion plan at its Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic, and another delay in operations at its Porgera gold mine in Papa New Guinea (PNG). Production at the mine was suspended in 2020 after a tax dispute flared up between Barrick and PNG. A year later, the two reached a tentative agreement to restart production after Barrick granted the country a much bigger share of the profits.

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