Sibanye-Stillwater not yet abandoned Mopani Copper deal

Copper concentrate

SIBANYE-Stillwater had not given up buying Zambia’s Mopani Copper despite an announcement last week a sale agreement had been signed with a company in the United Arab Emirates.

“We still think there is significant potential at Mopani to generate a lot of value for the benefit of all stakeholders,” said James Wellsted, head of corporate affairs at the precious metals miner. “And as we have said before, we think copper is a metal with a very positive fundamental outlook.”

“Things can change and do change,” he said. “So we will keep a watchful eye.”

Reuters reported last week that ZCCM-IH, an investment vehicle owned by the Zambian government, had agreed with International Resources Holdings (IRH) it invest funds into Mopani Copper to help with short-term working capital and finance the completion of the mine development.

IRH, which is linked to Abu Dhabi’s most valuable listed company, International Holdings Company, is also expected to “reset” Mopani’s existing relationship with Glencore which has an offtake agreement with Mopani Copper.

The proposed partnership between ZCCM-IH and IRH should enable Mopani to increase copper production to at least 200,000 metric tons per annum, said Reuters. Mopani requires $300m investment to expand output over the next three years and an additional $150m to sustain operations, ZCCM said in September.

Sibanye-Stillwater appeared to be the favourite to take control of Mopani Copper following a competitive bidding process against China’s Zijin Mining Group which saw the South Africans team up with another Chinese company.

“One competitive edge is that we can be a bridge between east and west,” said Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater in August. “China has spent a lot of money in Zambia and it would be difficult for the government to exclude them. That was one consideration.”

But in October, IRH stepped into the bidding.

Zambia’s mine minister Paul Kabuswe told journalists in Lusaka on Friday that details on IRH’s investment and level of equity participation in Mopani would be provided when the negotiations were completed.

Zambia has been searching for a new investor for Mopani since it took control of the assets from Glencore in 2021 after agreeing to pay the Swiss commodities giant $1.5bn in a deal funded by debt.