World’s biggest miner reviews newly acquired Brazilian assets

Pedra Branca, located in the southern part of the Carajás. Credit: OZ Minerals

BHP Group Ltd. is undertaking a strategic review of the Brazilian copper and gold assets it acquired with the takeover Oz Minerals Ltd., as the No. 1 miner pivots toward minerals key to the green-energy transition.

The $6.4 billion purchase of Oz Minerals included an untapped gold deposit and four small, but high-grade, copper-gold mines in the state of Para. BHP has said so-called “future-facing” metals, which also include nickel and fertilizer ingredient potash, are central to its growth as iron ore use plateaus and the world moves away from fossil fuels.

It will take 12 to 18 month from May, when the transaction closed, to complete the strategic assessment, Carla Wilson, the miner’s Brazil’s country manager, told Bloomberg in an interview.

“It’s about understanding the resources and the opportunities. We haven’t operated before in Brazil,” she said. “But it’s clearly a region of future facing commodities, which BHP is very focused on: copper, nickel.”

BHP’s largest deal in over a decade was focused on creating a copper hub in South Australia, while consolidating the company’s position as one of the world’s largest producers of the metal. Copper consumption is projected to surge in electric vehicles and renewable energy. In Brazil, only Oz Minerals’ Pedra Branca mine is operational.

Until the acquisition, BHP’s presence in Brazil was confined to Samarco, an independent iron ore venture with Vale. The company still faces the consequences of a 2015 deadly dam collapse, including a lawsuit in the UK and the renegotiation of a compensation settlement with Brazilian authorities, both potentially involving billions of dollars.

Samarco just got approval for its judicial recovery plan, in a years-long debt restructuring triggered by the disaster. Wilson said BHP is focused in repairing the damage caused and getting output back to full capacity by 2028. Samarco’s iron ore pellets command a premium as they are used to produce low-carbon steel.

“We have no intention of selling Samarco,” the BHP executive said.

Brazil can also be part of the BHP’s strategy for the $5.7 billion Jansen potash project in Canada. The South American country is an agricultural superpower that imports about 80% of its fertilizers needs.

“We’ll need to find markets and there are potential opportunities for different stages of that project as well,” Wilson said.

(By Mariana Durao)


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