Raw co-managed BlackRock’s mining funds in London before “taking the leap” to Barrick in Toronto in 2016, the “bravest” move of her career
“This is a first pass and we would expect these to go up not down”
Raw says Barrick will deliver at least $4.7bn of savings from its gold mines in Nevada
When a coup hit Mali in 2011, shares in gold miner Randgold wobbled. Its Loulo complex in the west of the country was one of its biggest cash flow generators.
One large investor held firm. Catherine Raw, a portfolio manager at BlackRock in London, who had previously worked for Anglo American, shadowed by an armed guard in Johannesburg, had spent time with Randgold's CEO Mark Bristow at its mines across Africa. From Mali's politics to the malaria rate at each of its operations, Raw knew how plugged-in Bristow was.
“You have to understand where Randgold is placed within the country, how important it is to the country’s GDP and also the strong links it has made with politicians and the government,” Raw explained at the time.
7 years later, she bought-out the whole company. Having been hired by Barrick Gold's chairman John Thornton, Raw moved to Toronto, pushing for an $18bn mega-merger with Randgold that has vaulted Bristow to the top of the industry. Still only 36, Raw has now taken on the most critical position in the combined group as head of North America.
Raw says she wanted to be an astronaut when she started studying geology at Cambridge in 1999, but instead went to Merrill Lynch, joining its mining desk, before the bank was bought by BlackRock.
Seen by former colleagues as “a brain-box”, Raw is bullish on gold and China and sees mining through the prism of financial returns. Perfectly-timed calls include a bet on zinc before prices ran-up in 2016. Less memorable investments include a bullish bet on iron ore at the top of the market in 2011. But whilst other money managers
are guarded, Raw is granular, deeply knowledgeable and arguably the most eloquent person in the industry on everything from interest rates and the Swiss franc to railway policy in China.
Jumping to Barrick was a one-off opportunity. “Taking the leap from being an investor in the mining industry to actually putting the theory into practice was the bravest, most exciting moment of my career.”
Rethinking Barrick's Nevada assets will be the biggest test yet. Bristow has strong-armed rival Newmont into a joint-venture in Nevada and Raw is now charged with leading the business, combining fleets, pulling down fences, upping gold grades, integrating supply chains, flattening the corporate structure, bundling together roasters, mills and autoclaves, folding 12 mines and 3.5m ounces of gold production into one gold operation.
Expectations are high: Bristow has flagged $4.7bn to $7bn of potential savings. “This is a first pass, and we would expect these to go up not down,” Raw has told analysts. Having retrenched from Australia, more than half of Barrick's production last year already comes from the region. No drama, says Bristow: Raw “understands that business backwards.”
Likeable and ever-present alongside Thornton, it would be surprising if Raw is not soon running one of the world's largest mining companies. “The biggest challenge for our industry is attracting talent,” she tells Women in Mining. “We need to illustrate that we are a modern, innovative, and necessary part of the global economy, providing the foundations for almost all other industries.”
NEWS & INTERVIEWS
» The Watch List: Catherine Raw (Citywire)
» Women in Mining (2018 Edition)