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Four firms shortlisted in race to buy Mopani

China’s Zijin Mining, Norinco Group, South Africa’s Sibanye Stillwater, and an investment vehicle owned by former Glencore officials have been shortlisted as potential buyers for Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines, according to two sources familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters.

Minister of Mines, Paul Kabuswe, announced in February that there were 10 interested parties vying for the mine and smelter complex, which is currently owned by the state firm ZCCM-IH.

Rothschild & Co, the financial advisory firm hired last year to find investors for Mopani, has narrowed down the list to four potential buyers, the sources said.

The sources revealed that Zijin Mining, Norinco Group, and Sibanye Stillwater are the three strongest contenders, with the investors currently conducting due diligence and finalizing the necessary preparations before submitting binding offers.

It is expected that an investor will be selected before the end of July. Separate proposals have also been made to Glencore, which is still owed money from the previous deal.

In 2021, Switzerland-based commodities giant Glencore sold a 73% stake in Mopani to ZCCM-IH for $1.5 billion, with the debt financed by Glencore. However, Glencore retained offtake rights of Mopani’s copper production until the debt was fully repaid.

The sources did not disclose the value of the current deal. Glencore, Zijin Mining, Norinco, and ZCCM-IH declined to comment, while Sibanye Stillwater confirmed that it had submitted a proposal to acquire Mopani.

Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman expressed the company’s willingness to invest in the copper mine, noting the potential of Mopani to produce approximately 225,000 tonnes of copper annually. Froneman highlighted the importance of the quality of the orebody and the skilled workforce in determining a mine’s success.

President Hakainde Hichilema has been actively working to attract new investors to boost copper production in the country, aiming to triple output in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.