Yamana Trims the Golden Fat

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With inflation expectations gaining momentum, selling one's gold sounds like a fool's errand. If you're stuffing jewelry into an envelope and mailing it somewhere, please think twice ... or even thrice.

If, however, you're a fast-growing mining company with more than 19 million ounces of gold reserves to play with, plus an exciting pipeline of projects under consideration, then streamlining operations might be the right way to get cash for gold. Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY  ) trimmed the golden fat Tuesday by announcing the sale of three producing gold mines to Canadian junior miner Aura Minerals.

For total consideration of up to $240 million, Yamana Gold is shedding the Sao Francisco and Sao Vicente mines in Brazil, and the San Andres mine in Honduras.

Of the company's nine producing mines, these three represent some of the smallest-scale operations in terms of annual production. With less than 1 gram of gold per tonne of ore, furthermore, they are among the lowest-grade ore bodies in the portfolio, and as such had been classified as noncore assets. Yamana announced its intention to divest noncore assets back in November, so this move did not come out of left field.

Meanwhile, with a $40 million ownership stake in Aura Minerals as part of this deal, and up to $40 million in potential royalty income, Yamana retains substantial interest in the mines without incurring mining costs.

Including those perks, Yamana fetched about $133 per ounce of gold reserves for the deal, which is better than the $100 per ounce that Teck Cominco (NYSE: TCK  ) received from Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX  ) for an operating gold mine earlier this year. Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC  ) took advantage of Teck's debt woes by acquiring the Lobo-Marte property in Chile for a mere $42 per ounce of reserves.

Like fellow intermediate producer Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM  ) , Yamana will continue to pursue substantial organic growth through its remaining six core mines, four promising projects in various stages of development, and five exploration projects. One of those exploration projects to watch out for -- the Agua Rica project in Argentina -- contains more than three times the gold (5.8 million ounces) of these divested mines combined, plus very significant copper reserves of 8.7 billion pounds!

While I expect many miners to focus upon growth through acquisitions, with Goldcorp (NYSE: GG  ) in the spotlight after raising $862 million last week, Yamana Gold continues to execute brilliantly on building up a first-rate, low-cost operational profile from among the treasures in its pipeline.

Further Foolishness:

Gold is a hot topic on the blogs at Motley Fool CAPS. Join the free service today and see just how many Fools are taking the long view when it comes to investing in gold. The "Gold" tag at Motley Fool CAPS lists 40 gold-related investments, and you'll find Christopher's comments on most of them.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker sees a pot at the end of the rainbow for investors who obtain exposure to gold. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines, Kinross Gold, and Yamana Gold. The Motley Fool has a gilded disclosure policy.

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