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Ivanhoe Electric ties up with Saudi Arabia’s Ma’aden

Robert Friedland at the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Image courtesy of FMF.)

Ivanhoe Electric (NYSE America, TSX: IE), the latest endeavour of mining magnate Robert Friedland, is joining forces with Saudi Arabian miner Ma’aden to explore for metals considered key for the world’s energy transition.

The companies are creating a 50/50 joint venture for such purpose that will run for five years, and may be extended up to ten years. 

As part of the exploration deal, Ma’aden will invest $126.4 million in Ivanhoe Electric equity, which grants the Gulf’s largest miner a 9.9% stake in Ivanhoe Electric, which owns properties in Arizona, Utah and Montana, along with a battery storage business.

Ma’aden will also make available about 48,500 square kilometres of land in Saudi Arabia for exploration, with Ivanhoe Electric providing its proprietary Typhoon technology under exclusive licence.

The minerals exploration and development firm, which last month moved its headquarters from Canada to the United States, will contribute $66 million to the JV, $13 million of which will be used to acquire three new generation TyphoonTM machines.

Ivanhoe’s electrical pulse-powered geophysical surveying transmitter technology can detect metals buried as deep as 1.5 kilometres underground. This makes it an ideal tool for surveying many parts of Saudi Arabia, where the bedrock is hidden by a sand and gravel cover that can exceed 1 km in depth, the company said.

The partners will look for battery metals such as copper, nickel and lithium, but will also search for gold, silver and iron ore.

Friedland made his fortune from the Voisey’s Bay nickel project in Canada in the 1990s. Since then, he has been involved in some of the biggest mineral discoveries in the world, including the giant Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia and the Kamoa-Kakula copper mine in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Forbes estimates Friedland’s holdings are worth $2.9 billion as of January 2023.

JV with Barrick

Separately, Ma’aden inked a new JV deal with Canada’s Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX)(NYSE:GOLD) for two prospective exploration projects in the Jabal Sayid South and Umm Ad Damar license areas.

The agreement expands Barrick’s exploration footprint in Saudi Arabia and opens up potential synergies with the neighbouring Jabal Sayid mine, an existing 50/50 JV between Barrick and Ma’aden.

The Jabal Sayid copper operation is located 350 km north-east of Jeddah, and the first shipment of copper concentrate occurred in December 2015, Barrick said.

The news comes as copper topped $9,000 per tonne on Wednesday for the first time since June 2022 on optimism over post-covid economic recovery in China, which consumes more than half the world’s copper.