The comparable figure in the same quarter of 2020 was $285m, or 29 cents per share. A year ago, adjusted net earnings per share were 16 cents.

Net earnings were $538m, or 30 cents a share in the first quarter of 2021, compared with $400m, or 30 cents a share.

Operating cash flow and free cash flow were $1.3bn and $800m, respectively. Net cash grew by $500m despite an advanced tax payment to the state of Nevada.

Stronger copper prices had a positive impact on copper revenues, which climbed 31%.

The company’s gold production dropped to 1.10 million ounces (Moz) from 1.25Moz.

The firm also said that it will offer nine cents per share as a quarterly dividend. This is the first $250m tranche of a return of capital distribution totalling $750m.

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The remainder of $500m will be distributed in two equal tranches.

Barrick senior executive vice-president and chief financial officer Graham Shuttleworth said: “Based on the current number of outstanding shares, the distribution of this first tranche represents approximately 14 cents per share, with the three tranches to be distributed during 2021, representing approximately 42 cents per share in total.

“In addition to the current quarterly dividend of nine cents per share, these distributions are providing Barrick’s shareholders with a significantly enhanced return in 2021.”

The firm also had a positive outlook about the months ahead, anticipating the production in the latter half of the year to be higher than the first.

The reason cited for the growth is mine sequencing at Nevada Gold Mines, commissioning of the new leach pad facility at Veladero, Argentina; higher anticipated grades at Lumwana, Zambia; as well as the ramp-up of underground mining at Bulyanhulu.

Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow said: “The rise in the gold price has prompted a resurgence of the short-termism, which has plagued the market, with some investors focusing on short-term gains rather than sustainable growth.

“But Barrick is building a business for the long term and our focus remains firmly on the future and on the creation and delivery of long-term value to our shareholders and all our other stakeholders.”