BARRICK Gold said first production from its Lumwana super pit expansion in Zambia had been accelerated with first production now scheduled for 2028.
The change in schedule was discussed between Barrick CEO Mark Bristow and Hakainde Hichilema, Zambia’s president in a meeting on Tuesday (January 23).
The $2bn expansion will transform Lumwana into one of the world’s major copper mines with annual production of 240,000 tons a year for 30 years, the group said. Construction is scheduled to begin towards the end of this year.
Bristow has been keen to add more copper to Barrick’s production profile. The Canadian firm has been connected with merger and acquisition activity, including speculation it has considered First Quantum Minerals as a target.
Bloomberg News reported earlier this month Barrick had sounded out shareholders in First Quantum about a potential bid for the company. First Quantum is vulnerable following the closure of its Cobré Panama mine amid a dispute with the Panamanian government.
The event has forced First Quantum to consider selling smaller assets but the group has stopped short of announcing sales of its Zambian mines which it considers core.
In the main, Bristow prefers organic growth to transactions. “No-one spends any money on their own future through exploration,” Bristow told Miningmx last year. Regarding copper, however he anticipates major upside in the metal’s price which could support M&A.
In 2020, Barrick offered to buy Grasberg, a copper mine in Indonesia, from Canadian firm Freeport-McMoRan.
Said Bristow: “I think with the big copper deals there’s a lot of upside in the price. We have a view about copper and gold: when we announced the Barrick deal, I was very clear this is a copper and gold company. The logic is it comes together.”