Due to an impending deficit and high prices for the industrial metal, which is also a major component in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EVs) and crucial to the renewables industry, Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX)(NYSE:GOLD) wants to add more copper properties to its African portfolio.
The Lumwana copper mine in Zambia is already owned by the Canadian gold giant, which it inherited from Randgold Resources in 2019. After the $6 billion transaction, Barrick was said to be looking to sell 13 assets, including the business.
After President Hakainde Hichilema won an overwhelming win in elections last year, pledging to increase growth and restore relations with mining corporations, the company changed its mind.
“He is a breath of fresh air,” Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said after meeting Hichilema on Monday as part of the Indaba mining conference in South Africa this week. “Zambia is an interesting story.”
Despite Bristow’s open and frequent criticism of the country’s government and its modification of the mining code in 2018, the miner is looking for copper projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it owns its massive Kibali gold mine.
But Barrick understands the importance of exploring the central African copperbelt, which runs between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and contains some of the world’s largest reserves.
“We’ve attempted to engage in both the gold and, more lately, the copper industries,” Bristow explained. “Because DRC is so well endowed, we’ll find opportunities.”
Barrick donated $1.4 billion in taxes, royalties, and dividends to its African host countries last year, resulting in a total economic contribution of $3.3 billion.
According to Bristow, these figures do not reflect the entire benefits, such as the value created by upskilling generations of people and expanding the national labor pool.
Looking forward to the next big transaction
Since acquiring Randgold, Barrick has come close to making a large acquisition. The Toronto-based miner has made bids for Pretium Resources, Kirkland Lake Gold, and Great Bear in the past year, but has refused to engage in a bidding war, allowing each business to be acquired by a competitor.
In April, Barrick stated that it would proceed with the massive Reko Diq copper-gold project in Pakistan, in collaboration with the Pakistani government. The company is also considering moving forward with the Donlin gold mine in Alaska, which it shares with Novagold Resources.
Barrick says it is open to a mega-transaction if the right deal comes up, citing the $7 billion Reko Diq project and the projected $9 billion Donlin project.