China further entrenched in Africa with Minmetals' Anvil acquisition

In what is being regarded as a major African mining play by a Chinese company, China's Minmetals Resources succeeded Friday in closing its $1.3 billion bid for copper miner Anvil Mining.

Hong Kong-listed Minmetals was offering $8 a share for Anvil, whose key asset is the Kinsevere mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After the acquisition, Kinsevere is expected to produce 60,000 tonnes of copper cathode a year, from 16,000 tpa in 2010. The mine is expected to have about a 14-year life.

The deal between Minmetals and Anvil nearly unravelled back in November over contractual arrangements between Anvil and DRC state-owned mining body Gecamines, but Gecamines last week confirmed Anvil's title to the Kinsevere and the Mutoshi copper and cobalt projects were valid and in good standing.

Minmetals had previously offered $6.3 billion for Vancouver-based Equinox Resources, which also mines copper in Africa, but was outbid by Barrick Gold in one of the biggest acquisitions of 2011.

"We bid for Equinox, now we've got Anvil, so we're interested in that part of the world," Minmetals CEO Andrew Michelmore said Friday. "We like that prospectivity."

Richard Poplak, reporting in The Daily Maverick, comments on the significance of the Minmetals-Anvil takeover:

It represents Minmetals entry into the African market – and while fellow Chinese miner Jinchuan Group Co. outbid Brazil’s Vale for South Africa-listed Metorex Ltd last year, this is the deal that seems to signal the tipping point. The Chinese have, officially, arrived.

Indeed, Chinese companies have been anxious to secure copper supply anywhere the red metal is plentiful, including the central African copper belt. Zambia is the country with the highest level of Chinese engagement, with the country securing equity interests in copper, coal and manganese reserves. It first entered the country in 1998 with the purchase of an 85% stake in the Chambishi copper mine for US$20 million.

With the country consuming 40% of the world's copper's supply to feed an economy that, while coming off the boil recently, is still projected to grow 6-7% this year, it is not surprising to see Chinese companies in an acquiring mood.

Reuters reported Michelmore saying that Minmetals, a unit of China'as biggest metals trader, will continue to look for deposits of copper, zinc and nickel in Africa, North and South America, parts of Asia and Australia:

"For something close to production in construction phase it's that $1-$7 billion range," he said, when asked how much Minmetals could spend on further acquisitions.