Miners spending again: $50 billion capex in five months

Conveyer belt construction at MMG’s giant Las Bambas copper mine in Peru. Source: MMG

SNL Metals & Mining tallied the value of planned capital spending announced by mining companies in November.

The industry research firm based in Charlottesville, Virginia did the same thing again April 7.

Outlays on new mines, sustaining capital, expansions and projects like mine life extensions had surged by nearly $50 billion to $108 billion over the duration of just five months.

Of course, some of this money may never be spent and many projects announced now may only result in actual spending years down the line or get substantially revised.

Nevertheless, it paints a picture of a measure of confidence returning to the sector.

And even more encouraging, initial capital spending on greenfield projects rose 216% in the first quarter compared to end-2015.

Miners are spending again: $50 billion capex in five months

Source: SNL Metals & Mining

At $12.3 billion of projected capex it was the highest three-month period  since Q4 2014, although it still pales in comparison to the heady days of 2012 when quarterly initial capex topped out at more than $50 billion.

According to SNL data between November and April, the bulk of announced capital spending shifted to Latin America and copper.

The region accounted for $32.4 billion in committed or actual spending while copper attracted $34.9 billion worth of new money.  Copper projects in Latin America attracted nearly two thirds of total new projects focused on the red metal.

NGEx Resources 60%-owned Constellation copper project is by far the biggest new project announced. The late-stage project in Chile will need more than $7.4 billion with an estimated $3.1 billion to build the mine and  roughly $4.4 billion for sustaining capital over a life of 48-years.

Other Latin American projects include $1.9 billion for Vale’s Salobo copper project in Brazil and $725 million for Hot Chili.’s 49.9%-owned Productora copper project in Chile.

Miners spending again: $50 billion capex in five months

Source: SNL Metals & Mining

During the previous period SNL data showed most money were going to Canada and the US, and towards gold projects which are still a close close second globally with $32.12 billion of announced spending, a 113% jump since November.

Investment in gold projects was led by Harmony Gold and Newcrest teaming up on the late-stage Wafi-Golpu project in Papua New Guinea. The South African miner and Australia’s top producer projected investments of $2.7 billion in initial capex, and an additional $3.7 billion for expansion work.

SNL forecasts that Latin America and copper would continue to attract the most investment.  More than $100 billion of planned capital spending over the next six years will flow into the region

Copper is projected to account for 30% of the estimated $258.7 billion in global capex through 2012. Initial capital costs account for $152 billion, or 59%, of the projected total for the next six years according to SNL.