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How Middle East Unrest Hurts Gold Miners

Randgold is charting a similar course as International Tower Hill. "Our production profile and our energy profile change quite a lot over the next five years as we move from diesel generator ... to grid power in the Ivory Coast to hydropower in the Congo," said Bristow. These moves are expected to reduce emissions and kilowatt cost.

In the meantime, oil prices will hurt but Bristow is prepared. "We've been to $140 [a barrel] before ... it puts some pressure on our costs but we're eminently profitable," he said. The company made 29 cents in the fourth quarter and can make big money as long as gold stays over $900 an ounce.

CEO of NovaGold (NG), Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, warns "if oil continues to go up that will have reverberations around the industry ... if it goes too high that can affect the world economy and then things slow back down again."

NovaGold is in the process of revising its 2009 feasibility study at Donlin Creek, its large gold deposit in Alaska, to incorporate a natural gas pipeline, which could reduce costs by 25%.

At its other big deposit, copper mine Galore in British Columbia, the provincial and federal government have teamed up to build the power infrastructure for the main power corridor in the region.

Barrick Gold (ABX - Get Report), the biggest gold miner in the world, is not immune to higher oil prices. CEO Aaron Regent said that cash costs for 2011 will be 10% higher with 5% of that increase coming from rising energy costs.

To mitigate the risk, Barrick has effectively hedged oil at $85 a barrel. "We have an energy division within Barrick which produces about half of the requirements," says Regent. "Then we have financial contracts for the balance."
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