Gold and Silver

Agnico Eagle CEO mulls move to go big or get small in Australia

Agnico Eagle CEO mulls move to go big or get small in Australia
Mining News Pro - Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. is weighing what to do with its only Australian gold mine after landing two big takeovers within two years that turned the Canadian company into the world’s third-largest gold producer.

Agnico gained an Australian mine as part of its combination with Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd., giving it a foothold into a region beyond its North American focus. Agnico’s latest deal, set to close this month, reinforces the Toronto-based firm’s homegrown roots by taking full control of the Canadian Malartic mine in Quebec.
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Chief Executive Officer Ammar Al-Joundi said he’ll spend this year reviewing Agnico’s operations, which also includes a gold mine in Finland, to determine next steps. That, he said, will involve making a decision on a key question: “Do we get bigger in Australia or do we get smaller?”

“We like Australia, we have no intention to sell Australia, but it would be disingenuous for me to say that we’ve got this big competitive advantage in Australia when we’ve got one mine,” Al-Joundi said Friday in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office.

The CEO’s road ahead comes as mining companies worldwide pursue deals to boost output and improve efficiencies to counter rising costs and the challenges of harder-to-mine deposits. Wavering production has pushed some in the gold industry to pursue rivals, with Newmont Corp.’s $17 billion bid for Newcrest Mining Ltd. last month setting the tone for what’s expected to be a busy year ahead for dealmaking.

“Our job this year is to optimize what we’ve got, which is on the operations, and then to revisit the whole portfolio again,” Al-Joundi said. “The last couple years have been about consolidating and strengthening our position, 2023 is probably more going to be about optimizing what we’ve got.”

Agnico Eagle has 11 operating mines in four countries: Canada, Mexico, Australia and Finland. Its biggest producers are its Canadian assets, with seven facilities accounting for 77% of overall annual output last year. Australia’s Fosterville mine, 130 kilometers (81 miles) north of Melbourne, accounted for about 11% of production and is the fifth-biggest producing asset.

Agnico has never been a company that “pounds our chest on size and getting bigger for the sake of getting bigger,” Al-Joundi said. He views the metals producer as more of a “regional gold mining company” focused on Canada and Mexico. The firm’s strategy is to go to places with a lot of potential and build a competitive advantage through experience, size and mass.

Such a strategy brings into question the future of Agnico assets that are further afield, such as Fosterville and the Kittila mine in Finland.

“Those are two that we would look at and say, ‘are these worth it?’,” he said. “Can we make more value for our shareholders or can someone else create more value for theirs?”

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