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In a move to bolster its position in the burgeoning copper market, Barrick Gold Corp. will pay $7.36 billion (C$7 billion) to purchase Australian copper miner Equinox Minerals.

A primary industrial metal with prices near record highs, Equinox has copper assets in Africa and Saudi Arabia that make it attractive to larger miners. Its Lumwana copper and uranium mine in Zambia is Africa’s third-largest copper mine by production and the Jabal Sayid copper development in Saudi Arabia is due to start production next year.

The deal would improve Toronto-based Barrick’s copper exposure in a strong price environment for the metal, which sees heavy use in construction and industrial applications, said Barrick Chief Executive Aaron Regent.

“Combined with our Zaldivar mine and Cerro Casale project in Chile, this acquisition would position Barrick with significant production growth potential in two of the most prolific copper-producing regions of the world,” Regent said.

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Indeed, the copper market is showing strong growth. In a keynote speech at the ABB Automation and Power World 2011 last week, ABB Chief Executive Joseph Hogan said the copper market is exploding, showing growth of 32% over the next 10 years.

“There is not enough copper to go around,” Hogan said. “That is not a false demand.”

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