Toronto-based Iamgold is on the prowl for acquisition opportunities in West Africa and the Guyana basin, president and CEO Joseph Conway said on Friday.
Flagging output levels, surging bullion prices and low valuations for junior companies are sending the world's gold-miners out with shopping bags in hand, in search of both early-stage and near-development prospects.
“Yes, we are,” Conway said in a conference call, in response to an analyst question on whether Iamgold was looking to get in on the action.
Iamgold sees the West African craton and the Guyana shield as underexplored and underdeveloped, and views its existing presence in both regions as a “strategic advantage”, Conway said.
Iamgold has interests in the Sadiola and Yatela mines, in Mali, which it owns with AngloGold Ashanti, and is exploring at its own Boto project in Senegal. In the Suriname-Guyana basin, the company operates the Rosebel mine, in Suriname, and had hoped to go ahead with development of its Camp Caiman project, in French Guiana, before the French government refused to issue permits for the mine.
The company would consider potential acquisitions at various stages of development, from early exploration to prefeasibility stage, and even later, Conway said on Friday.
Last month, Vancouver-based Goldcorp's friendly takeover offer for Gold Eagle Mines followed hot on the heels of an announcement by another Canadian miner, Kinross Gold, that it would buy explorer Aurelian Resources, to get its hands on the smaller company's large Fruta del Norte project, in Ecuador.
Iamgold, which reported a 17,5% decline in gold reserves over 2007, is faced with the challenge of either discovering or buying additional gold resources and reserves.
However, the company is starting to see the benefits from various initiatives at its operations to improve production and keep a lid on costs, and announced on Friday that it had increased its production guidance for this year by 3%, to 950 000 oz.
It is also planning new mines in Ecuador, Tanzania, Peru, and Canada, as it seeks to boost gold resources, and stem production declines.
Iamgold bought fellow Canadian miner Cambior in 2006, after a proposed merger with gold major Gold Fields was rejected by the bigger company's shareholders a year earlier.
$1 000 GOLD THIS YEAR?
Meanwhile, Conway said on Friday that he expects to see bullion prices scale the $1 000/oz mark again by year-end.
"Our view is that this year is going to end up with a four-digit gold price, rather than a three," he said in an interview on CNBC.
"We're still very bullish on the long-term prospects."
Gold prices set a record peak at $1 030,80/oz in March this year, and have hovered in the late $800s for much of the year.
Spot gold was at around $855/oz on Friday afternoon, however, as prices for the precious metal slumped this week, after the US dollar gained ground against the euro.