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TORONTO — First Quantum Minerals Ltd. has offered $4.9-billion for Inmet Mining Corp. in a bold attempt to get its hands on Cobre Panama, one of the largest mining development projects underway anywhere in the world.
The move puts Inmet’s immediate future into question, as the company is now in play and senior copper miners are certain to take a closer look at Cobre Panama.
Toronto-based Inmet owns 80% of Cobre Panama, and it is a monster. The project holds 32 billion pounds of copper reserves and nine million ounces of gold reserves (along with huge inferred resources), and has a likely mine life of more than 30 years. It also comes with enormous risk: The current cost estimate is US$6.2-billion, and Panama has no history of large-scale mining.
Construction of Cobre Panama has just started, and analysts suggested that if First Quantum has its own development plan for the mine, it needs to get in quickly. First Quantum is recognized for having a strong technical team.
“I see a fit in the sense that [First Quantum] management has been very experienced in building four grassroots projects on time and within reasonable budgets, and also operating in what I would call politically sensitive areas in Central Africa,” said John Hughes, an analyst at Desjardins Securities.