As the founder and builder of Barrick Gold, Peter Munk has few peers in Canadian mining history. In less than two decades, he turned a small Canadian producer into one of the world’s largest and most respected mining companies. In the process he transformed the industry that made him a titan into something it had never been before—a financially sophisticated business able to compete with other industries for investment capital.
Peter Munk was born in Hungary November 8th 1927. He emigrated to Canada and received a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 1952.
Munk’s mining career began in 1983 when he bought a stake in an Alaskan placer mine and half the Renabie mine in Ontario. Gold production was a mere 3,000 oz. that year; revenue, roughly $1.7 million. He then purchased the Camflo mine in Quebec, which gave him a stellar technical team led by mining engineer Robert Smith. Munk then turned his attention to a Nevada heap-leach project producing a mere 40,000 oz. gold each year. The industry doubted its potential, but Munk raised $62 million to acquire the property, which Barrick soon turned into a mining camp. Goldstrike has produced more than 20 million ounces since operations began, yet continues to be Barrick’s flagship operation, with reserves of more than 25 million ounces and annual production of more than 2 million ounces from several open-pit and underground mines.
Peter Munk’s influence on gold mining was most keenly felt in the financial realm, where he turned the industry on its ear through an innovative hedging program. Munk ignored skeptics and argued that if hedging was good for him, it would be good for shareholders too. It was indeed. Over a 13-year period, Barrick’s Premium Gold Sales Program generated nearly US$2 billion in additional revenue.
In recent years, Barrick has expanded its horizons to Africa and South America, mostly by optioning or buying advanced projects from juniors. Its roster of mines includes Pierina in Peru and Bulyanhulu in Tanzania. In mid-2001, Barrick made another bold move by announcing plans to acquire Homestake Mining. This US$2.2-billion acquisition boosted Barrick’s annual production to 6 million ounces, second only to South Africa’s AngloGold.
Peter Munk has received many honours for his achievements in mining and in business. He became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993. Also in 1993, he shared The Northern Miner’s Mining Man of the Year award with partner Robert Smith. In 1999, he was named Canadian International Executive of the Year by the Canadian Council for International Business and was presented a Lifetime Achievement award by the Toronto Stock Exchange and Mining Works for Canada.