Barrick Gold says it is the largest gold producer in the world. Thanks to record high gold prices, Barrick claimed $4.7 billion in adjusted net earnings in 2011, which it calls "record financial results." Barrick increased its quarterly dividend by 33% in May 2012 and has increased its dividend by 260% over the last six years.

Barrick has maintained "a consistent track record of returning additional capital to shareholders." But in yet another abandonment of its responsibilities to the people did the hard work of building its wealth, Barrick Gold has canceled the medical benefits it promised to a thousand former employees.

Citing rising operating costs, Barrick Gold Corp. will cancel the Homestake Retiree Medical Plan, leaving about 1,000 retirees without the benefit.

Cara Horton, benefits manager with Barrick Gold Corp., said Homestake retirees who are at least 65 or older will lose the company’s retiree medical plan at the end of this year. That includes about 800 retirees. About 200 former employees who are not yet 65 will lose the benefits next year.

Horton said Barrick Gold Corp. will issue one-time subsidy checks that are intended to help offset the cost to purchase private health insurance for one year [Wendy Pitlick, "Lost Benefits," Black Hills Pioneer, 2012.11.10].

Barrick acquired Homestake in 2001. The former employees its cutting loose aren't on their own: thankfully, they have trusty old Medicare to provide their primary coverage. Since the Barrick plan is limited to a few Northern Hills providers, many of the stiffed retirees already have other supplemental plans.

But Barrick said they'd be there to help. Now they're bailing, scrapping benefits for workers who earned them in order to sustain shareholder payouts.

Barrick has about as much regard for the people who carried its loads as the swiftly liquidating Romney campaign. That's the vulture capitalist mindset.