Barrick Gold looks to grow its copper business

June 19, 2023

The global energy transition will require massive amounts of copper. Mining companies around the world and attempting to position themselves to meet the demand. Newmont Corporation agreed to acquire Newcrest Mining in May for $19.2 billion. That deal not only makes Newmont the clear leader in the gold sector but it greatly increases its copper position.

Newmont President and CEO Tom Palmer said of the acquisition, “This transaction also increases Newmont’s annual copper production – a metal vital for the new energy economy – and adds nearly 50 billion pounds of copper reserves and resources from Newcrest to our robust and balanced portfolio.”

Bloomberg News reported that Newmont’s gold sector rival, Barrick Gold Corp. is also pursuing opportunities to grow its copper business. Barrick recently approached First Quantum Minerals Ltd. to discuss a potential takeover. First Quantum Minerals rebuffed the $17 billion deal.

Mark Bristow, Barrick’s chief executive, has talked for years about his desire to grow in copper.

Copper is critical “if you want to be relevant” in mining, Bristow said on the company’s latest earnings call. “As a gold miner, you’re going to have to grow and include copper in your portfolio.”

Bloomberg reported that Barrick’s biggest investment project is a $7 billion copper-gold project in Pakistan, which Barrick plans to start up in 2028 and could operate for at least four decades. It’s also studying an expansion at its Zambian copper mine, while scouring for new deposits across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Bristow isn’t alone in his hunt for copper. Mining executives and analysts have been sounding an alarm over growing shortages starting in the mid-2020s, as demand increases for copper in electric vehicles, wind and solar farms and high-voltage cables. The world’s biggest miners are all looking to grow in copper to take advantage of future price rises, at a time when there are few new projects being planned.

Bristow has stressed that Barrick is still, at its core, a gold company. But the firm’s gold production has fallen to its lowest level since 2000 and its shares are down 5 percent this year. Newmont’s takeover of Newcrest Mining Ltd. would cement its position as the world’s top gold miner. The only metal output that has increased at Barrick since the Randgold merger is copper.

“It’s as strategic as gold is precious,” Bristow said recently.



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