Prime Meridians – Notes From Peru’s Exploration Nerve Center

This week in Pierce Points:

China moved to cut zinc and nickel output. Production will be shuttered as part of an anti-pollution drive

Energy private equity changed strategy. Investors are partnering directly with E&Ps, showing shale opportunities may be dwindling.   

Queensland got tougher on miners. The world-leading exploration regime unveiled new rules on reclamation and financial guarantees. 

The North Sea saw $1.35 billion in deals. Private equity firm Blue Water as well as chemical maker INEOS are buying up assets. 

Notes From Peru’s Exploration Nerve Center

I’m back from a couple weeks’ swing through South America. Including an unscheduled stop in Brazil — where I witnessed firsthand the chaos currently engulfing this important resource nation. 

My first morning in Sao Paulo, I awoke to news of current Brazilian president Michel Temer being implicated in a corruption scandal engulfing many of the country’s top politicians. 

The local Ibovespa stock index promptly fell 10% on the day. And the streets were suddenly filled with protesters, shutting down main road arteries through the city. 

Since then, the situation has grown more dire. With President Temer deploying government troops to quell increasingly violent protests across the country — an important event to track, given Brazil’s importance in iron ore, oil, gold, and other metals. 

But the main purpose of my South America jaunt was a visit the previous week to Peru. To attend the proEXPLO exploration conference — which turned out to be a very active few days. 

Attendance at the show was strong, and the mood was buoyant. I witnessed or heard about several project deals and new investments being struck, showing that it’s definitely “money on” in this go-to exploration destination.

The majority of that spend is focused on copper and gold. With several major companies focused on copper — including groups like First Quantum Minerals and China’s MMG.

Interestingly, the proEXPLO show coincided with important news from First Quantum — in the company’s main stomping grounds for copper, the African nation of Zambia. With news emerging that the company is working through a settlement in a $1.4 billion lawsuit with the Zambian government over taxes, electricity prices and other mining matters. 

That legal action has raised concerns about the stability of Zambia. And perhaps because of that, First Quantum seems intent on ramping up exploration elsewhere — and Peru seems to be one of the firm’s top choices for new projects. 

Choosing Peru makes sense, given the strong growth the country has seen in copper production recently. And it was interesting to hear at the show that other big Peruvian copper players like MMG are also moving aggressively on further exploration and development.

That company — which has developed the Las Bambas mega-mine the last few years — appears very intent on finding new deposits in Peru. Especially satellites to the existing Las Bambas operations. 

All of which is great news for the Peru mining sector. Showing that project activity should remain strong here for the coming months and years — with brownfields and greenfields discoveries likely to keep the pipeline primed for future production growth. 

Watch for a steady flow of exploration results from Peruvian projects — and possibly some significant expansions of resources at existing mines. This is the world’s growth engine right now for new copper supplies. 

Here’s to the best places on Earth,

Dave Forest

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