Rio Tinto ready to splash out on copper – by Barbara Lewis and Clara Denina (Reuters U.S. – June 29, 2018)

LONDON (Reuters) – Rio Tinto wants copper, and it’s ready to pay top-dollar. The global miner would be willing to fork out a large premium over market value to secure a prime asset as it tries to reduce its reliance on iron ore, company and banking sources told Reuters.

If it can’t land a big copper project, it is weighing the cumulative power of a series of more modest acquisitions to increase its exposure to a metal expected to be in high demand from the electric vehicle and renewable energy industries, the sources said.

The approach under CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques marks a shift for Rio Tinto, known for its cautious strategy since it was badly burned in the commodity price crash earlier this decade after a series of damaging acquisitions.

“Growth is back on the agenda,” Jacques told a mining dinner in London late on Thursday, but he said Rio would be selective. Kevin Fox, managing director of Rio Tinto Ventures, a division set up to hunt for established mining projects to acquire, told Reuters it was tough to find quality assets.

“The exploration space is not full of wonderful opportunities,” he said. “What are we looking at? It’s trite to say the battery minerals sector is attracting a lot of interest and we are obviously looking at that. We include in that copper.”

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