In a recent development, Chinese-backed mining company MMG has successfully acquired the Canadian firm Cuprous Capital, the owner of Botswana’s Khoemacau copper mine. The purchase reflects MMG’s strategy to secure a stable supply of copper, a crucial metal for the green energy transition.
Khoemacau mine is notable for its high-grade copper deposits, averaging around 2 percent. This acquisition represents a significant step for MMG, as Khoemacau is home to one of Africa’s largest copper deposits. The flagship project at the mine aims to produce an annual output of 60,000 tons of copper. The deal values Cuprous Capital at an enterprise value of $1.9 billion.
Although MMG is headquartered in Australia, it is publicly listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with China Minmetals as its largest shareholder, a state-owned entity. This strategic positioning aligns with China’s objective of ensuring a stable and robust supply chain of copper for its industries.
China’s increasing copper smelting capacity, expected to grow by 45 percent by 2027, reflects the nation’s growing demand for copper resources. This expansion has intensified global competition for copper concentrate.
Several factors have contributed to supply constraints in the copper market. Political unrest at Panama’s Cobre mine has led to disruptions in production and reduced output. Labor strikes in Peru have added to uncertainties. Consequently, copper prices have experienced an upward surge, with Shanghai prices reaching $9,506, marking a two-month high. Similar price increases have been noted on the London Metal Exchange (LME) during the same period.
Global commitment to energy transition goals is anticipated to further drive copper prices upward. Renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, require significantly more copper than conventional fossil fuel-based energy generation. China has made remarkable progress in expanding its solar capacity and increasing exports of solar panels to Europe. Additionally, the rising adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), which utilise nearly three times more copper than traditional petrol vehicles, is contributing to increased copper demand. The proliferation of EV charging stations is poised to further boost copper consumption.
MMG’s stock has seen substantial growth over the past year, with a 25 percent increase, and currently trades at 10 times forward earnings, representing a notable premium compared to its global peers. This growth underscores the company’s optimistic outlook and its ability to capitalise on the rising copper market.
China is presently the largest consumer of copper globally, accounting for over half of global consumption. As a result, it is expected that Chinese state-backed mining companies will continue to influence copper prices in the coming years. China remains willing to pay a premium to ensure the competitiveness of industries that rely heavily on copper resources.
In conclusion, MMG’s acquisition of the Khoemacau copper mine in Botswana reflects the growing competition for copper resources driven by the green energy transition. With copper prices on the rise and nations and corporations alike prioritising secure copper supplies, China is leading the way in this endeavor.