Low-carbon policies stoke demand for lithium, cobalt and copper, but investors must judge whether the boom will last
For years BHP has focused on investing in safe and stable countries such as Australia, Chile and Canada. But faced with the challenge of supplying the metals and minerals that will be needed in the shift to the low-carbon economy, the world’s biggest mining company is starting to take on more risk.
It has already taken a stake in SolGold, a London-listed explorer seeking to develop a huge underground copper deposit in Ecuador and last month threw its considerable weight behind a huge nickel project in a remote part of Tanzania as part of a strategy to “capture opportunities in future-facing commodities”.
BHP is not the only big miner looking to increase exposure to the metals needed for a huge increase in electrification. Just before Christmas, arch rival Rio Tinto announced its first major acquisition in decade, paying $825mn for a lithium project in Argentina, which has a floundering economy beset by surging inflation.
What these deals have in common is a realisation that the shift to a low-carbon economy will lead to increased demand for metals at the same time as long-term supply growth is constrained by a sparse project pipeline, rising opposition to mining both at a local and national level and geology, as companies tackle ever more difficult sites.
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