Chinese mining company Zijin Mining Group signed partnership deals with two Canadian based companies. Barrick Gold Corp. agreed to sell a 50 percent stake in the unit that manages the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea to Zijin for $298 million and Ivanhoe Mines will partner with Zijin, a large gold, copper and zinc producer in China, on its Kamoa copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Zijin agreed to pay $412 million for a 49.5 percent stake in Kamoa Holding Ltd., the Ivanhoe Mines unit that owns the majority of the Kamoa copper project.
For both sides, the deal with Zijin represents the culmination of long-held ambitions to attract a Chinese partner. Ivanhoe has sought investors for several years into its Congo projects, talking to at least one other Chinese mining company. Barrick Chairman John Thornton has set relationships with Chinese partners as a priority since joining the company in 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Porgera, expected to produce 500,000 to 550,000 ounces of gold this year, is owned 95 percent by the mining company’s Barrick Niugini Ltd. unit and the remainder by the Papua New Guinea government.
Barrick, the world’s largest gold mining company, has been working to strengthen its balance sheet and has planned several sales aimed at helping cut its debt by $3 billion by the end of this year. On Monday, Barrick said it would sell its Cowal gold mine in Australia to local mining company Evolution Mining Ltd. for $550 million.
Analysts speculated that Zijin and Barrick could now look at jointly developing Pascua Lama, the Canadian company’s troubled project on the border with Argentina and Chile.
A spokesman for Barrick said that while there was no agreement at present to develop Pascua Lama, that was a “natural project” for the two sides to consider.
Barrick and Zijin have also signed a long-term strategic cooperation agreement to collaborate on future projects and joint investments, Barrick said.
“Our partnership with Zijin is the first step in a long-term strategic relationship with one of China’s leading mining companies—a multifaceted partnership that will provide significant opportunities to work together on an ongoing basis as we continue to create value for our respective owners,” Thornton said in a statement.
Zijin’s deal with Ivanhoe comes just two months after the Chinese mining company agreed to acquire a nearly 10 percent stake in Ivanhoe for about $85 million. At that time, Ivanhoe Executive Chairman Robert Friedland said the two companies were in “detailed, friendly discussions about the strategic co-development of our Kamoa copper discovery.”
According to a preliminary economic assessment, Kamoa’s first phase of development is estimated to cost about $1.4 billion. Ivanhoe said it has invested about $337 million to date on discovering and developing the project.
Many mining companies and resource developers have shied away from the Democratic Republic of Congo, given what they see as political risks and the lack of infrastructure in the country. Zijin already has one project in the DRC, the Kolwezi Copper Mine. The Chinese company also mines in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Australia, among other countries.