By Liana B. Baker and Ernest Scheyder
(Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp Chief Executive Mark Bristow said on Monday he wants to speak immediately with Newmont Mining Corp about a proposed Nevada joint venture, even as his company moves to take a $18 billion (13.6 billion pounds) takeover offer directly to Newmont shareholders.
Newmont earlier on Monday rejected Barrick's full buyout offer and reiterated its plans to go ahead with its deal to buy smaller rival Goldcorp Inc.
Newmont's JV proposal, unveiled Monday, seeks to combine adjacent mines and other facilities in Nevada. While the logic of integrating operations seems clear to both Barrick and Newmont, the sticking point has been control.
"We will definitely engage Newmont immediately to see if they have a genuine commitment to this discussion around unlocking the synergies of Nevada," Bristow told Reuters.
Asked for comment, Newmont spokesman Omar Jabara said in an emailed statement that his company "looks forward to hearing back from Barrick on our letter (rejecting Barrick's offer) and joint venture proposal."
Neither side seems to agree on the full value of the Nevada assets. Newmont's JV proposal uses publicly available materials to estimate value, as neither side has sat down to formally hash out how a JV could work.
In a Reuters interview, Bristow said that based on the consensus estimates for Barrick's assets in Nevada, his company should control at least 66 percent of any joint venture, compared to the 55 percent Newmont proposed.
Newmont's JV proposal includes some assets in Colorado, which does not border Nevada.
The proposed Barrick deal for Newmont would combine two of the biggest gold producers in the world at a time when both companies are trying to bolster shrinking gold reserves to boost growth as well as take advantage of rising prices.
Bristow said that Barrick will likely go to Newmont shareholders with a formal offer ahead of the upcoming Newmont shareholder vote planned this spring on the Goldcorp buyout. A date for the vote has not yet been set.
"Shareholders will at least have an alternative to consider to the proposed Newmont-Goldcorp transaction," Bristow said. "We need to make a formal alternative to the current agreement that's in place."
Newmont said earlier on Monday that its Canadian rival's all-stock offer was not in the best interest of its shareholders as it was offered at a discount.
"Barrick's egocentric proposal is designed to transfer value from Newmont's shareholders to Barrick," Newmont's chief executive, Gary Goldberg, said on an investor call.
Barrick's offer of 2.5694 common shares for each Newmont share was equivalent to about $33 per share, which represented a discount of $3.48 to Newmont's closing price on Feb. 22, the last trading day before the offer was announced.
Newmont shares have fallen about 6 percent since Barrick's offer.
Bristow said in the interview that Newmont's Australian assets likely would be sold to an Australian company should he prevail in his buyout and that he has already talked with several Australian miners.
Several media reports in recent weeks indicated that Newcrest Mining Ltd would be interested.
"We have absolute reason to believe that there's an interest from some of the bigger Australian mining companies in acquiring the Newmont Australian assets," Bristow said.
Shares of Barrick rose 1.7 percent to close Monday at C$16.62 in Toronto trading. Shares of Newmont rose 1.9 percent on Monday to close at $34.45 in New York.
(Reporting by Debroop Roy and John Benny in Bengaluru, Liana B. Baker in New York and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown)