Metals & Mining

Copper Mining Companies seek Partnerships to Ease Soaring Copper Project Costs

“I don't think they understand the difficulty in the challenges of maintaining supply, or bringing new supply on.”

SMEBROctober 12, 11:01
Copper Mining Firms Seek Partnerships to Cut Project Costs

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Copper mining companies are gearing up for partnership deals in the next six to 12 months, according to industry insiders. These companies aim to tackle the growing costs of new mining projects, which have surged by an average of 50% to reach between $3 billion and $4 billion in recent years. This increase is attributed to falling ore quality, stricter environmental regulations, and rising labor expenses.

Rather than pursuing large-scale mergers and acquisitions (M&A), copper producers are increasingly seeking collaboration to ease the financial burden. M&A activity in the sector more than doubled to $14.24 billion in 2022. However, miners are exploring alternatives, eyeing partnership agreements as a means of dividing the risk and expenses.

This approach offers opportunities for investors interested in supporting the transition to greener energy. By investing in partnerships, they can gain partial ownership of existing assets and revenues, a valuable proposition at a time when high-quality copper reserves are scarce.

Glencore, a prominent miner and trader, has attracted potential investors for its Argentine copper projects, Minera Agua Rica Alumbrera (Mara) and El Pachon. Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining is among the interested parties. 

Jack Lundin, CEO Lundin Mining, said, “I don't think they understand the difficulty in the challenges of maintaining supply, or bringing new supply on.”

Lundin Mining is in talks with Japanese traders for a stake in Argentina's Josemaria mine. Capstone Copper, which plans to sell their stake in Chile First Quantum, has acquired a stake in Rio Tinto's La Granja project and seeks investors for the Taca Taca project in Argentina.

The mining sector faces the issue of cost inflation, with nearly one in five development projects experiencing cost overruns, averaging $500 million, according to professional services firm EY. 

Industry experts anticipate a copper market deficit from 2027 due to the growing demand for electric vehicles and renewable infrastructure. 

In conclusion, the mining industry is actively seeking partnerships to address the rising costs associated with copper mining projects. By sharing risks and expenses, companies aim to navigate the challenges posed by increasing capital requirements and ensure a stable supply of copper for the growing demand in the energy transition.