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Feb 20, 2019

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A deal that would see Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) split returns from its Tanzanian unit with the government could have ramifications for its negotiations with other countries, including Papua New Guinea and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Toronto-based miner’s long-term license to operate its mine in Papua New Guinea is due for renewal this year. The question is whether officials there, and in other countries where the global miner operates, will push for a similar arrangement as resource nationalism continues to gain traction around the world.

The largest gold miner may already be trying to get ahead of that tide in PNG. Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow met last week with government officials about extending its license for the Porgera mine, Barrick’s joint venture with Zijin Mining Group Co.

Executive Chairman John Thornton had said previously that Barrick may one day sell its remaining 47.5 per cent stake to Zijin. But since taking Barrick’s reins in January, Bristow has backpedaled on that. The miner issued a statement this week calling Porgera a long-term asset for both companies. It then added that, without an extension to its mining lease, it would be “difficult to justify” the significant capital investments the mine requires.

Elsewhere, Bristow has also hit the ground running. The company has already reached out to the new government in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after President Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in late last month.

Barrick, and other miners, have been pushing for changes to the country’s mining code, but so far have been rebuffed. The country’s mines minister said earlier this month the rules won’t be reopened.