BHP Group struck a deal to look for copper in Serbia as the world’s biggest mining company expands efforts to find new deposits of the metal essential for the green revolution.
The top miners are bullish on the outlook for copper, which is used in wind turbines, grids and electric vehicles — so is key to decarbonizing the global economy. And with demand expected to outstrip supply, concerns about future shortages are mounting.
To highlight miners’ hunt for assets, BHP last month agreed to acquire Australian copper producer OZ Minerals Ltd. for about $6.4 billion, its biggest deal in years. And rival Rio Tinto Group recently took full control of copper miner Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. in a $3.1 billion deal.
Now, BHP has agreed to pay fees and exploration costs for three copper exploration targets in Serbia with Canada’s Mundoro Capital Inc. The accord ultimately allows BHP to take full control of any or all of the assets, should they find enough copper to justify building a mine.
Mundoro, which announced the agreement Monday, has three copper exploration targets in the Timok region of Serbia.
Rio already operates in Serbia, where it’s trying to develop a huge lithium mine. Those plans were dealt a blow a year ago when protests by environmental and opposition groups over pollution risks prompted the government to stop the development.
Serbia’s president last week said it may revisit its decision to block the project.
BHP has said building its copper and nickel business is a key priority as it looks to balance its portfolio away from fossil fuels and ultimately iron ore. The company has already built stakes in a copper explorer in Ecuador and a nickel company in Tanzania.
(By Thomas Biesheuvel)