By Clara Denina and Harry Brumpton
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Barrick Gold Corp, the world’s second largest bullion miner, is preparing its Zambian copper mine Lumwana for sale in the second half of 2019, looking to target Chinese buyers, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Fresh from two major deals in recent months, Barrick has said it plans to shed $1.5 billion (£1.16 billion) of less productive mines, which have little expansion potential.
It included Lumwana among the possible sales, as a relatively low-grade copper mine whose margins could be materially affected by Zambia’s new mining code and import duty. Analysts value the mine at up to $500 million.
Barrick is holding discussions with investment banks about appointing advisers to the sale, the sources said.
Two of the sources said that a bank with links to Chinese companies was likely to get the advising role for Lumwana.
Barrick didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The group is looking to enter talks with Chinese state-owned companies including Aluminum Corp of China, known as Chinalco, and China Minmetals Corporation, which have been seeking growth abroad and a foothold in Africa, lured by its vast resources.
The sale process, however, may not be easy, the sources said, as the potential acquirer will have to be comfortable with the risk associated with tax changes in Zambia.
Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, is determined to enforce a new 5% copper import duty and also plans to replace value-added tax with a non-refundable sales tax as part of a plan to keep a greater share of mineral resource profits for the country and tackle its debt.
The new taxes also include a royalty on copper production that increases as commodity prices rise.
Zambia has overcome opposition of some of the world’s biggest mining companies, betting that a global need for its resources, particularly copper, essential for manufacturing electric cars, and cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, will keep the tax receipts flowing.
Diversified miners Glencore, Vedanta Resources and First Quantum also operate in the southern African country.
The sale of Lumwana doesn’t signal a complete exit from copper assets for Barrick. The company is interested in acquiring assets that include both copper and gold, and pure copper projects if it has a competitive advantage over traditional copper miners, Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow told Reuters last week.
Over the past six months, Barrick closed a $6.1 billion acquisition of African miner Randgold Resources and formed a joint venture with rival Newmont Goldcorp to combine operations in U.S. Nevada to create the world’s biggest gold complex.
(Additional reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Zandi Shabalala in London)