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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gold prices will keep rising, says Newmont boss Richard O'Brien

NEWMONT Mining chief executive Richard O'Brien says gold may rise to $US1350 ($1454) an ounce next year and reach as high as $US1500 within two years because of the declining dollar and new investment demand.

"I'd say next year we could maybe see as much as a $150 improvement," Mr O'Brien said.

"There's still that continued push on US dollar decline -- still inflation."

Gold surged to a record for the second straight day as central banks, pension funds and individuals bought the precious metal as a hedge against currency debasement and inflation.

Gold futures touched an all-time high of $US1218.40 an ounce in New York and bullion priced in sterling, euros and Swiss francs also set records.

"The increase in demand in general for investments has more than offset that decline for jewellery," Mr O'Brien said.

"Gold could trade in a range of $US1000 to $US1500 an ounce in the next couple of years."

Shares in Newmont, the world's second-largest gold producer by sales, have gained 37 per cent this year.

Higher bullion prices may make it more difficult for the Colorado company to grow through acquisitions, Mr O'Brien said. "With the rise in the gold price, a lot of the stocks have rallied. People have access to capital again," Mr O'Brien said.

"It's probably a more difficult acquisition environment than it was a year ago."

Newmont would build on its existing deposits and projects while watching for "opportunistic" acquisitions, Mr O'Brien said.

"We're looking in places around the world where we see terrains of interest," he said, identifying Indonesia, Australia, Alaska and the Arctic, and "challenging" political areas.

"We're up for the challenge, we just have to find the right discoveries," Mr O'Brien said. Newmont aims to increase its annual production of gold by 5-10 per cent next year.

The company said in October that its gold sales this year would be about 5.2 million ounces.

"We're going to try to maintain our production profile that we have today -- that five million to 5.5 million ounces -- keep that going into the future, invest in new projects to help sustain that, and every once in a while, if we find something interesting in the market, acquire that," he said.

Mr O'Brien said he was open to collaboration with Barrick Gold in Nevada. He cited as an example the joint venture between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto in Australian iron ore operations.

"You see in BHP and Rio, the way they've attacked the iron ore business, that there are certainly ways, without destroying value, to actually put operations together and generate synergies," Mr O'Brien said. "If there's a way to do that so that each of our shareholders comes out in a better spot, we'd be up for it."