Mining Review reports Newcrest Mining CEO Greg Robinson told reporters on Friday it would acquire Harmony Gold Mining’s 50% stake in their massive Wafi-Golpu joint venture in Papua New Guinea if it was for sale.
Last month Harmony Gold upgraded the resource estimate for Wafi-Golpu increasing it by 57% to over 1 billion metric tons, making it one of the highest grade copper-gold porphyry systems on the planet.
Rumours about a possible sale by Harmony have been swirling for months and estimates of the value of the mine forecast to start production only in 2017 have bounced up and down with one investment bank pegging it at $9.9 billion.
Miningreview.com reports Newcrest expects the gold-copper project to produce 600,000 to 800,000ozpa of gold and 300,000 to 500,000tpa of copper.
In July MINING.com quoted Harmony CEO Graham Briggs saying Wafi-Golpu was a “game-changing asset” for the company and the latest drilling results bring the Wafi-Golpu deposits within sight of Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg mine across the border in West Papua, Indonesia. Harmony also said bringing the project to production would cost upwards of $4 billion.
MINING.com reported in June, the takeover rumour mill is working overtime as speculation about the size of Harmony Gold’s Wafi-Golpu deposit increases. Harmony has already been forced to share the planet’s potentially third largest gold and copper mine with Australia’s Newcrest Mining, selling 50% of the project for $525m three years ago.
As the value of Wafi-Golpu climbs – Deutsche Bank recently put it at $9.9bn – other suitors may be lining up for the assets. M&A activity in the gold sector is at a 10-year high and top takeover candidates are Harmony’s South African peer Gold Fields, Canada’s Barrick Gold, Newmont Mining and partner Newcrest itself.