Four firms shortlisted in race to buy Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines – sources

By Felix Njini

(Reuters) – China’s Zijin Mining and Norinco Group, South Africa’s Sibanye Stillwater and an investment vehicle owned by ex-Glencore officials have been shortlisted in the race to buy Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Zambia’s mines minister Paul Kabuswe said in February there were 10 suitors for the mine and smelter complex that is owned by state firm ZCCM-IH.

Rothschild & Co, hired last year to find investors for Mopani, has whittled down the list to four, the sources said.

Switzerland-based commodities giant Glencore sold a 73% stake in Mopani to ZCCM-IH in 2021 for $1.5 billion in a deal funded by debt, but retained offtake rights of Mopani’s copper production until the debt had been repaid in full.

One of the sources said the investors, who conducted due diligence and submitted non-binding offers in May, are now completing all the work required before making binding offers, with Sibanye, Zijin and Norinco the three strong contenders.

The source added that an investor is expected to be selected before the end of July, and that separate proposals have also been made to Glencore, which is still owed money.

Glencore also made further loan advances to Mopani in 2022.

Reuters was not able to establish the value of the deal.

A spokesperson for Glencore declined to comment. Zijin also declined to comment, while Norinco and ZCCM-IH did not immediately respond to emailed questions.

Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman, who is seeking to expand in copper as part of the company’s push into green metals, confirmed the company had submitted a proposal to acquire Mopani.

“We are willing to invest, we are willing to be there for the long term,” Froneman told Reuters in an interview.

Froneman said the copper mine, which could potentially produce about 225,000 tonnes of copper annually, required considerable investment, but that the available deposits made Mopani a good asset to own.

“It’s a wonderful orebody, and a good mine starts with a good orebody and good people,” Froneman said.

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema is seeking to attract new investors in Africa’s second-largest copper producer, and wants to triple output of the metal that is key to products from power lines and industrial machinery to electric vehicles.

(Reporting by Felix Njini, additional reporting by Nelson Banya in Harare, Chris Mfula in Lusaka, Siyi Liu in Beijing and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Jan Harvey)