By Felix Njini
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The Zambian government is expected to make a final decision on the sale of Mopani Copper Mines this month, securing a new investor for the assets it bought from Glencore in 2021, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Zambia’s Mines Minister Paul Kabuswe had initially said a new investor for the copper mines, which are struggling to make a profit, would be selected by the end of July.
The process has been delayed by complex negotiations, as it also involves Glencore, which Mopani owes money, the source said. Glencore has previously said it will not comment on the sales process as it has exited the assets.
ZCCM IH, a unit of the Zambian government, is being advised by Rothschild & Co on the Mopani sale.
It has presented investment proposals to the government that include South African platinum miner Sibanye Stillwater, an investor from United Arab Emirates with links to International Holding Company (IHC), and China’s Zijin Mining Group, the source said.
The process is nearing completion, with ZCCM and the government expected to finally make the selection this month.
ZCCM took control of Mopani from Glencore after agreeing to pay the Swiss commodities giant $1.5 billion in a deal funded by debt.
Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema wants new investors in Africa’s second-largest copper producer and aims to triple output of the metals key to the clean energy transition and to driving growth in battery electric vehicles.
ZCCM, when approached for comment on the timeline for a sale, referred Reuters to a Sept. 29 speech by Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane, in which he said the selection of an investor for Mopani is “imminent”.
Among the investors that ZCCM has been evaluating, Sibanye stands out because of its experience reviving some of South Africa’s oldest and struggling gold and platinum mines, the source said.
Sibanye is now fine-tuning its financing plans for Mopani, the source added.
Neal Froneman, the CEO for the Johannesburg-based precious metals miner, which confirmed its bid for Mopani earlier this year, told Reuters on Wednesday the sale process was still ongoing.
“I sense that they now do want to bring it to a close quite quickly,” Froneman said in an interview.
The UAE investor has a strong financial position, but limited mining experience, the source added. IHC did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
China’s Zijin offers a good blend of financial strength and mining expertise, but the global macro-economic environment and uncertainty in commodities could be limiting its interest in Mopani, the source added.
(Reporting by Felix Njini; Additional reporting by Chris Mfula in Lusaka and; Hadeel Al Sayegh in Dubai; Editing by Jan Harvey)