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UPDATE 2-Barrick sees no risk to mining conventions in Mali, hikes dividend as gold soars

(Recasts, adds CEO comments, shares)

Nov 5 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp does not see a big risk that Mali will change its mining conventions, CEO Mark Bristow said on Thursday, as the company raised its dividend and reported a near three-fold jump in quarterly profit.

Mali’s transitional government last week said it aims to review mining conventions after the West African country’s auditor general said they do not always protect the state’s interests.

In a report dated March 30, the auditor general alleged that the Barrick subsidiaries controlling the Loulo and Gounkoto mines owe the government 60.53 billion CFA francs ($108.7 million) including unpaid taxes and dividends.

Bristow said that dispute has already been settled, and the company - Mali’s biggest foreign investor - had agreed a payment with the government last year.

“I don’t see it as a sinister situation at all,” Bristow told Reuters, referring to the mining conventions.

Barrick shares jumped 4.9% on Thursday as gold’s surge to around $2,000 an ounce propelled adjusted profit for the quarter ended Sept. 30 to $726 million, or 41 cents per share, from $264 million, or 15 cents, a year earlier.

Barrick declared a dividend of 9 cents per share, a 12.5% increase on the previous quarter’s dividend.

Gold production fell as the Porgera project in Papua New Guinea remained shut.

Papua New Guinea and Barrick have agreed in principle over Porgera, with Barrick Niugini Ltd set to remain operator of the project.

Bristow said he would travel to the South Asian country next week and that he hoped to resolve the lease dispute soon.

He said Barrick has looked at early-stage exploration prospects in neighboring Indonesia, home to Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg copper-gold mine.

“But our big focus at the moment is just dealing with our Porgera challenge first.”

Barrick is studying non-core asset sales that could include projects in South America, Bristow said, adding that the company would retain the Veladero mine in Argentina.

Bristow said the $500 million belonging to its Kibali joint venture in Democratic Republic of Congo will be paid out soon, after months of discussions with the government over how to get the money out of the country. (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Jeff Lewis in Toronto and Helen Reid in Johannesburg; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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