The global mining sector has witnessed a significant surge in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in recent years, with copper deals taking center stage. As the world shifts towards renewable energy and electric vehicles, the demand for copper and other base metals is skyrocketing. Mining companies, especially majors like Newmont and Glencore, are capitalizing on this demand by acquiring copper-producing firms, signalling a strong appetite for mega deals in the sector.
Amidst this M&A flurry, junior mining companies like Solaris Resources present a value proposition to major mining companies. Solaris, a copper-focused exploration company, is on the radar of major miners due to its large copper development asset, Warintza, in southeastern Ecuador which boasts a resource of 1.5Bt of 0.5% CuEq including a high-grade starter pit of 287Mt of 0.8% CuEq.
Analysts published that this starter pit generates a $50 per tonne margin, which at 40 million tonnes per annum would generate $2 billion per year of EBITDA for nearly 7.5 years within a nearly 40-year mine life. That translates into a capital payback period of approximately two years which is unheard of for a project of this scale. Such acquisitions give major miners access to high-value projects and strategic geographical locations, contributing to their growth and expansion plans.
Solaris also recently reported a new porphyry centre discovery at Warintza East located outside the mineral resource shell. This second centre boasts the highest grade assays at Warintza East to date, beginning from the bedrock surface and extending right to the hole’s end.
This exciting new discovery, open to the east, west, south, and at depth, signifies a pivotal step forward in the Warintza Project’s exploration efforts and offers potential to rapidly add near surface, high grade mineralization to the deposit that could contribute to future starter pit growth. Step-out and extension drilling are underway.
In 2022, M&A activity in the mining sector reached a total value of US$24.49 billion, with major miners being the biggest spenders. Interestingly, copper deals took the top spot by value at US$14.24 billion, outpacing gold and other metals. Copper prices also reached an all-time high, surpassing US$10,500 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange. The heightened interest in copper is largely due to its crucial role in the green energy transition and concern over dwindling reserves and supply.
Three notable copper-focused deals in 2022 included BHP’s takeover of OZ Minerals, Rio Tinto’s acquisition of a significant stake in Turquoise Hill Resources, and Glencore’s sale of its CSA mine to Metals Acquisition. These deals were valued at US$6.44 billion, US$3.3 billion, and US$1.1 billion respectively, indicating a substantial investment in copper assets.
The trend shows no signs of slowing down in 2023. Newmont, the world’s largest gold miner, has put in a final takeover offer of about US$19.2 billion for Newcrest Mining. This deal is not only set to be the biggest-ever deal in the gold space but will also give Newmont significant exposure to copper, with combined annual copper production of approximately 350 million pounds expected after the acquisition. Meanwhile, Glencore has also made an unsolicited deal offer of US$23.2 billion for Teck Resources, further proving the growing interest in copper deals.
However, it is not only the mega deals that are drawing attention. The market is also closely watching the dynamics between Glencore and Teck Resources, where Teck has consistently been against Glencore’s proposals. This situation underscores the strategic considerations that both acquiring and target companies must navigate during M&A activities.
On a broader scale, this trend of M&A in the mining industry, particularly for copper, signifies a shift in the resource sector’s investment landscape. The green energy transition is driving a change in the types of commodities that investors are prioritizing. As the world moves towards a more sustainable future, the demand for copper and other base metals needed for renewable energy infrastructure and electric vehicles is set to rise. Therefore, mining companies that can secure these resources through strategic acquisitions will likely be at an advantage.
As 2023 moves forward, the mining industry and its investors should closely monitor these developments. The current M&A activity highlights a key market shift and provides valuable insights into future trends. Whether it’s a junior copper miner like Solaris Resources or a major player like Newmont, the appetite for mega deals in the mining industry is borne out in every month of the year so far. Now the market is waiting to see how these trends evolve and what impact they will have on the global mining landscape.