BHP becomes Ecuador-focused SolGold’s largest shareholder

Camp at Cascabel copper-gold project, 180 km north of the capital Quito. (Image courtesy of SolGold.)

World’s largest miner BHP (ASX, LON, NYSE:BHP) has increased its stake in Australian miner SolGold (LON:SOLG) (TSX:SOLG) to 14.7% from 11.1%, which boosts its exposure to copper, one of the key metals for the world’s green initiatives.

The mining giant said on Monday it had paid 17.1 million pounds ($22 million) to raise its interest in SolGold, a move that makes it the Ecuador-focused company’s top shareholder. Such position was held until today by Australia’s largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining (ASX: NCM).

The deal, which also gives BHP options to purchase another 19.25 million shares by 2024, stipulates that it won’t acquire further shares for two years without SolGold’s consent.

SolGold’s flagship project may become one of the largest copper-gold porphyry systems ever discovered.

The rising mine developer has attracted a flurry of interest from big industry actors eager to increase their exposure to copper. The highly conductive metal is in demand for its use in renewable energy and electric vehicles, but big, new deposits are rare.

SolGold’s Cascabel copper-gold project is one of those exceptional finds as it has the potential to become one of the largest copper-gold assets ever discovered with an estimated productive mine-life of 55 years.

Recent recoveries at the project, located in in northern Ecuador, could add $8.7 billion of revenue over the life of Cascabel, the company said in October.

SolGold is also studying 13 other priority targets in the Andean nation, according to a presentation delivered this month.

From Hotspot to Producer

Ecuador, the new darling of copper prospectors, expects to attract $3.7 billion in mining investments over the next two years, up significantly from the $270 million it received in 2018.

The country is moving forward with plans to move from an explorers’ hotspot to mining exporter as its only large-scale copper mine readies to ship its first large cargo this month. The $1.4 billion Mirador open-pit mine, which opened in July, is owned by a joint venture of Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group and China Railway Construction (EcuaCorriente).

Canada’s Lundin Gold (TSX:LUG), which has been developing its Fruta del Norte gold-silver project for almost two years, has produced its first doré and gold concentrate, and is on track to beginning commercial activities in the second quarter of 2020.

Other than Cascabel, another three major copper projects are due to be in production by 2024: Lumina Gold’s (TSX-V:LUM) (OTC:LUMAF) Cangrejos and Codelco-Enami Ecuador’s Llurimagua mine.