Cobre Panama a risky endeavour for First Quantum: analyst

Inmet Mining's (TSX:IMN) Cobre Panama project could be a risky business for fellow Canadian First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) despite the deposit’s attractive metrics, Haywood Securities mining analyst Kerry Smith told BNamericas (subs. required).

In December, First Quantum — Canada’s biggest pure copper player — launched a $5.1 billion bid for its smaller Toronto-based rival, in an effort to own the world's largest undeveloped copper deposit in Cobre Panama.

The offer turned hostile early this month, when First Quantum took it to Inmet’s shareholders. If successful, the deal will be the biggest hostile mining bid since BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE:BHP) withdrew a $40 billion offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX, NYSE:POT) in 2010.

Cobre, Inmet’s flagship project in Panama, is expected to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper per annum worth around $1.1 billion at current prices.

However Smith warns that it is a large project, and as such has a lot of capex. “[Building] that in an area where [First Quantum has] never worked before is a bit of a risk."

He added the Vancouver-based company already “has a lot on its plate," since it is looking to build three other projects.

First Quantum holds extensive copper, nickel and gold assets throughout Africa and Australia, while Inmet mines copper and zinc in Turkey, Spain and Finland.

In late December, Inmet lifted its estimate of copper, gold and molybdenum reserves at its flagship Cobre Panama project by 27% and extended the projected mine life by nine years.

Once in operations, Cobre will become the largest mining project ever undertaken in Central America.

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