Australia’s largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining (ASX: NCM), is acquiring a 70% joint-venture interest in Imperial Metals’ (TSX: III) Red Chris copper and gold mine, located in British Columbia, Canada, as part of an ongoing push by the world’s top bullion miners to get even bigger.
The Melbourne-based company, which is also the world’s No. 3 gold producer by market value, is paying Imperial $806.5 million in cash and act as the mine’s operator.
Vancouver-based Imperial will retain a 30% interest in the open-pit mine and will also acquire surrounding tenements, as Red Chris consists of 23,142ha of land with 77 mineral tenures.
The mine churned out around 44.8 million pounds of copper and 29,569 ounces of gold in the first nine months of the 2018 calendar year.
The asset, which has a mineral resource of 20 million ounces of gold and 13 billion pounds of copper, gives Newcrest a producing mine in North America with significant underground development opportunities.
“We have identified a clear pathway to potentially turn this orebody into a Tier 1 operation,” Newcrest Chief executive Sandeep Biswas said. “The geology of Red Chris is similar to our Cadia orebodies in Australia and we will be applying our considerable experience in exploration, open pit mining, caving and processing to maximize the mine value and the opportunities in the surrounding region.”
If things go as Newcrest anticipates, Red Chris will evolve into a multibillion-dollar play for medium-term growth in a location that sits close enough to both North American and Asian markets.
The Aussie gold producer set eyes on Red Chris three years ago, after an internal survey of emerging opportunities around the mining globe named it as the kind of deposit Newmont would like to own. That same review identified leads in Ecuador, Mexico and the US that have already translated into investment decisions.
The acquisition could be the first of many Newcrest may score this year. The company had said it was open to examining the Australian assets Barrick would have sold if its hostile approach to acquire Newmont had succeeded.
Imperial said in a separate statement that it would use the proceeds from the sale to repay debt and for working capital. The company owes $873 million, much of it maturing this month, and has been incurring heavy losses.
In addition to Red Chris, Imperial owns the Mount Polley and Huckleberry copper mines in B.C.
It also holds a 50% interest in the Ruddock Creek lead-zinc property.