TORONTO (CP) -- Barrick Gold Corp. [TSX:ABX; NYSE:ABX], the world's biggest gold producer, says it's open to further expansion in Pakistan - which it considers more politically stable than some countries in South America.
''Pakistan ... from a mining point of view, from a business point of view, is among the better countries (to invest in),'' founder and chairman Peter Munk told shareholders during the Canadian company's annual meeting Thursday.
''If I had the choice to put my money in one of the Latin American countries run by Evo Morales (Bolivia's president) or (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez - I know where I'd put my buck,'' he said, referring to moves to nationalize resources in those two countries, to the detriment of foreign investors.
Barrick bought a stake in the Reko Dig copper-gold project in Pakistan for $100 million in February from Antofagasta PLC, a Chilean mining group.
When CEO Greg Wilkins went to Pakistan in connection with that project, Munk said, he was received by both Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and President Pervez Musharraf.
''If a country has time to have its president - who's in the middle of a, politically, highly charged region, courted by Soviets, China, Muslims and America - has time to sit down ... with Greg to encourage him to invest money and invite a Canadian company to come in to develop the country's resources, it shows you what a great country it is.''
Although the company's assessment of opportunities in that country is still in the early days, Wilkins said Barrick would be ''very interested'' in more projects in the area, despite challenges posed by the presence of al-Qaida in its various regions.
Barrick, a Toronto-based miner, has about 22,000 employees around the world.
The company reported a jump in first-quarter profit to $224 million, from a year-easrelier $66 million, late Wednesday, boosted by strong metal prices and gains made from the acquisition of Vancouver-based Placer Dome.
The company reduced their hedge commitments by 4.7 million ounces in Q1 2006, 23% off their global book - the largest single company reduction in hedging on record, according to The Hedge Book Q1 2006.
Barrick said they had acquired 7.7 million ounces of Placer Dome hedges after the takeover of that company, which was completed in January.
They announced in February that they had closed out 1.0 million ouces of Placer Dome's call options; another 3.7 million ounces of reductions were made later in the quarter.
On the Toronto stock market Thursday afternoon, its shares were trading up over 6%, or $2.20, at $36.60. With Resource Investor.
(c) The Canadian Press 2006