Gold giant Barrick is hunting for more African copper projects

As the gold-mining giant looks to expand in one of the world’s most-important industrial metals.
Image: Bloomberg

Barrick Gold Corp. is searching for copper projects in both Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as the gold-mining giant looks to expand in one of the world’s most-important industrial metals.

Barrick already owns a copper mine in Zambia and in April laid out plans for a $7 billion copper-gold project in Pakistan. Copper is an essential part of the world’s efforts to decarbonize and new supply is constrained globally. Prices surged to a record in March and remain elevated, although they have retreated since then.

Barrick is looking at opportunities across the central African copperbelt, Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow said in an interview in Cape Town. The area straddling the border of Zambia and Congo is home to some of the world’s richest deposits but foreign mining companies have been stung by a series of aggressive policy moves in both countries, prompting some to leave the region and deterring new investment.

The situation has changed rapidly in Zambia, however, after President Hakainde Hichilema won a landslide victory in elections last year, pledging to boost growth, and is seeking to repair relations with mining companies. Earlier this week, rival miner First Quantum Minerals Ltd. approved a $1.25 billion project to expand its Kansanshi copper mine in Zambia, citing the new government’s efforts to improve the investment climate and settle outstanding issues.

Bristow said he met with Hichilema on Monday and came away with a positive impression.

“He is a breath of fresh air,” he said. “Zambia is a good story.”

In Congo, Bristow has been an outspoken critic of the government and its revision of the mining code in 2018. However, the massive mineral riches mean it’s hard to ignore. Bristow said he’s interested in developing copper and gold mines in the country, where he previously built a giant gold mine as CEO of Randgold Resources.

“We’ve tried to invest both in the gold industry and more recently in the copper industry,” Bristow said. “We’ll find opportunities because DRC is so well endowed.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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