Unlock the value

Barrick Gold is offering $10m to anyone who can unlock the silver from the ore at its Veladero gold mine in Argentina.

The Canadian gold mining outfit Barrick Gold is offering $10m to scientists, engineers and other inventors who can unlock the silver from the ore at its Veladero gold mine in Argentina.

Geologists have determined there are 180 million ounces of silver contained in gold reserves in the ore at the Veladero mine in Argentina. But because the silver particles are encapsulated in silica, current processing methods are recovering only 6.7 per cent of the silver. Barrick’s “Unlock the Value” program invites proposals for an economically viable way to significantly increase silver recovery from this type of ore.

For proposals judged to have merit, Barrick will fund research and development. For a technology that is successfully implemented at Veladero, the company will pay a performance bonus of $10m.

‘This opportunity will appeal to chemists, metallurgists, physicists, engineers, or any inventor with a new concept for improving silver recovery,’ said Greg Wilkins, President and CEO. ‘Experience in mining is not required because we are looking for innovation and new approaches. The $10m award is a substantial incentive to spur creative thinking but, beyond that, Barrick will fund research and development for proposals that have merit. Scientists sometimes have difficulty finding funding to take their good ideas to the next level, so we believe this will be a welcome aspect of the program.’

Interested researchers can register and submit proposals through a special website at www.unlockthevalue.com. Preliminary proposals must be submitted by January 21, 2008, to be considered for the next stage of proposal development. Proposals will be assessed by a team of experts and evaluated on their technical viability and ability to be safely implemented at Veladero. Those judged to have merit will be invited to submit a detailed proposal. If successful, they will go on to further phases of development, testing and commercial evaluation.

Barrick’s Veladero mine is located in San Juan Province, Argentina, about 320 kilometres northwest of the city of San Juan in the highly prospective Frontera District. It is located at elevations of between 4,000 and 4,850 metres above sea level, and comprises two open pits – Filo Federico to the north and Amable to the south.

Barrick invested about $540m to construct the mine, creating 4,000 jobs during the construction phase and 800 full time jobs during operation. The mine opened in October, 2005. In 2006, its first full year of production, Veladero produced 511,000 ounces of gold.