Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun owner and publisher Brian Greenspun has joined the board of directors at Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s biggest gold-mining company.
Barrick, based in Toronto with extensive operations in Nevada, announced the appointment Wednesday in its second-quarter earnings report.
Greenspun joined the board as an independent director.
He is Barrick’s first board member from Nevada, and his appointment was not linked to an investment in the company, spokesman Andy Lloyd said.
Lloyd said the board, as part of a “renewal process,” has taken on six new members since December, including former Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman J. Michael Evans, who joined Wednesday, the same day as Greenspun.
Nevada by far is the largest source of gold in the country, and according to Lloyd, accounts for 40 percent of Barrick’s global production.
“We just want to make sure our board reflects the interests of the company and where we operate,” he said.
Greenspun said he owns a few thousand shares of Barrick stock, and Chairman John Thornton asked him a number of months ago to join the board.
Greenspun said he and Thornton have known each other for years through their affiliation with the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Thornton is co-chairman of Brookings’ board of trustees, and Greenspun sits on the board.
“They’ve never had a Nevada director,” Greenspun said of the mining giant, “and they were looking for someone who can give them the Nevada perspective.”
His appointment comes as Barrick and other mining companies face a November ballot measure on whether to remove Nevada’s constitutionally imposed cap on mining taxes, potentially raising costs for an industry that has received constitutional protection from various taxes since Nevada became a state in 1864.
The Nevada Constitution dictates that mineral-extraction taxes cannot exceed 5 percent of net proceeds, or the minerals’ collective value minus certain operating costs. The constitution also bars any other types of taxes on minerals or their proceeds.
If approved, the ballot measure would lift those restrictions.
Asked for his thoughts on the possible perception that Barrick wanted Greenspun so he would sway editorials or coverage of the ballot measure, Greenspun said he has no concerns about any conflicts of interest between the Sun and Barrick.
“We may take positions different or opposite from what Barrick thinks is in its own best interests,” he said. “I am an independent director.”
Barrick, weighed down by $13 billion in debt and gold prices that have dropped 31 percent from their peak in 2011, said this week it “continues to focus its exploration and growth efforts on Nevada.”
Roughly 50 percent of Barrick’s $200 million to $240 million exploration budget this year is earmarked for the state, mainly at the “Goldrush” discovery in Northern Nevada.
The company is studying the Goldrush site and expects to finish that examination in mid-2015.
On Wednesday, when it announced Greenspun’s appointment, Barrick reported a $269 million second-quarter loss, down from an $8.6 billion loss a year earlier.