BHP joins hunt for Serbian copper
BHP, the largest Australian miner, has struck a new deal to explore for copper in Serbia as it accelerates efforts to boost its exposure to metals that will be vital to building electric cars and green energy technology.
The Melbourne-based mining giant’s agreement with Canada’s Mundoro Capital gives it the option to take a stake in three exploration areas that Mundoro holds in the Timok region of eastern Serbia. Copper is considered one of the key building blocks of the clean energy revolution, used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and power grids’ transmission lines.
“Mundoro welcomes BHP as an exploration partner that recognises the potential of further exploration in the western Tethyan Belt,” Mundoro chief executive Teo Dechev said.
Top mining companies across the world, including BHP and rival Rio Tinto, have been ramping up efforts to diversify into so-called “future-facing” commodities, those standing to benefit from global trends towards decarbonisation.
BHP, which derives most of its earnings from the steel-making material iron ore, is targeting growth in copper and nickel, two minerals the world needs much more of in coming years as countries race to electrify transport and hit “net-zero” emissions targets. Electric cars consume up to four times as much copper as internal combustion-engine vehicles, BHP says, while nickel is a necessary ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.
Last month, BHP signed a binding $9.6 billion takeover offer to acquire Adelaide-based copper and nickel producer Oz Minerals, which has two copper and gold mines in South Australia, located either side of BHP’s vast Olympic Dam mining hub.
The Oz Minerals deal, if it succeeds, will mark BHP’s biggest acquisition since it paid $US12 billion for US shale gas producer Petrohawk in 2011.
BHP last year sold off its global oil and gas division, partly to free up its ability to spend on more copper and nickel. However, the company remains a significant producer of carbon-intensive fossil fuels with several coal mines across Australia, most of which produce coking coal for the steel-making sector.
Rio Tinto has also looked to Serbia in its quest for “future-facing” minerals copper and lithium. However, its plans to develop the $3 billion Jadar lithium mine in western Serbia, which would have been the largest in Europe, suffered a significant setback last year when the Balkan nation’s government tore up its permits in response to escalating community protests over its potential impact on the environment.
The future of Rio Tinto’s Serbian project remains in limbo, but the company has not given up hope that it may eventually proceed.
Meanwhile, in December, Rio Tinto finalised a multibillion-dollar deal to buy the shares it did not already own in Toronto-listed Turquoise Hill Resources to lift its exposure to the giant Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in Mongolia. It has also recently acquired the undeveloped Rincon lithium brine project sitting within the so-called “lithium triangle” of South America.
Copper presently accounts for about 20 per cent of BHP’s underlying earnings, while iron ore makes up more than 50 per cent. Based on long-term price forecasts, copper could make up more than 40 per cent of earnings by 2030, according to analysts. “This would support the strategy to have about 50 per cent of the portfolio, longer term, made up from copper, nickel and potash,” investment bank JPMorgan said, SMH writes.
Kazakhstan, KAZ Minerals increases copper production 26% in first nine 2022
KAZ Minerals, the largest copper producer in Kazakhstan, reported today that its copper production increased by 26% to 282 kt in the first nine months of 2022 (9M 2021: 224 kt).
“The world class ramp up of the second sulphide concentrator at Aktogay, as well as improved performance at Sulphide 1 and the oxide plant, enabled Aktogay to increase its copper output by 64% to 168 kt in the year to 30 September 2022 (9M 2021: 102 kt),” the company said in a statement.
The company’s 9M 2022 gold production of 129 koz increased by 2% compared with 9M 2021 (126 koz) due to higher output at Bozshakol where throughput and grades processed improved in the period.
In 9M 2022, KAZ Minerals also produced 2,718 koz of silver (9M 2021: 2,513 koz) and 29.4 ktonnes of zinc (9M 2021: 34.1 ktonnes).
KAZ Minerals added that its copper sales were aligned with copper production in the first nine months of the year but were 9% behind production in the third quarter, as Aktogay output exceeded expectations.
Importantly, the company noted that its finished goods inventory is expected to reduce in the fourth quarter and fully unwind during 2023.
CEO Andrew Southam stated, “KAZ Minerals has delivered an excellent set of operational results in the first nine months of 2022, with copper output increasing by 26%. The world class ramp up of the second sulphide concentrator at Aktogay has resulted in a step change in our production, while site management has continued to improve ore throughput across the Group to maximise copper output.”
KAZ Minerals is the largest copper producer in Kazakhstan. It operates the Aktogay and Bozshakol open pit copper mines in the Abay and Pavlodar regions of Kazakhstan, three underground mines and associated concentrators in the East Region of Kazakhstan and the Bozymchak copper-gold mine in Kyrgyzstan. The company also completed a Bankable Feasibility Study for the greenfield Baimskaya copper project in Russia, which it acquired in 2018, Kitco reports.
Zijin Bor Copper, enlarged copper concentrate production in Serbia
China’s Zijin Mining Group, produced 26.9 million tonnes of tailings and 9.4 million tonnes of ore in the first half of 2020, in its Serbian unit – Zijin Bor Copper, lead mining engineer Jiao Jianming said.
The Chinese group injected $350 million (414.5 million euro) in the capital of Serbian copper mining and smelting company RTB Bor in December 2018, acquiring majority ownership, and renamed the company to Zijin Bor Copper.
Zijin Bor Copper, produced 27,700 tonnes of copper concentrate in the first half of 2020, up 10.5% on the year, Jiao Jianming said.
“Instead of the projected average content of 0.304% ore with 0.338% of copper was mined, and the utilisation of metals in flotation was 103% of plan. Therefore, instead of the planned 24,000 tons of copper in concentrate, 10.5% more was produced in the period,” Jianming said in the latest edition of corporate newsletter Kolektiv.
“We expect a better price of copper in the coming period, so we are optimistic about the full implementation of the plan for 2020,” he added.
Zijin Bor Copper aims to produce 55,000 tonnes of copper concentrate and 90,000 of copper cathode in 2020.