LONDON (Reuters) - Base metals miner Central Asia Metals (CAML) is on the hunt for a new copper project in Southern Africa for up to $400 million in what would be its first foray into the continent, its chief executive said.
The London-listed company, which has two mines in Kazakhstan and Macedonia, is prepared to spend $300 million-$400 million in countries including Namibia, Botswana and Zambia, CAML’s Nick Clarke told Reuters.
Flush with cash brought on by a recovery in commodity prices, miners are paying dividends again and slowly returning to the search for new assets.
“We are agnostic as a mining company where we go. We look for the right combinations of asset quality and the right government attitude towards the mining industry,” he said.
CAML, which raised its interim dividend by nearly 20 percent last year, bought Lynx Resources, which owns the SASA zinc-lead mine in Macedonia, for $402.5 million in September.
The project is expected to generate cash within its first year of integration into CAML due to its low cash costs.
Clarke said he needed time to assess the company’s current assets and there was no timeline for any new acquisition.
The main criteria for a new purchase would be low cash costs, a proven resource with a long lifespan and low on political risk, but he added there was some flexibility on that list “should the right deal come along”.
CAML was offered the chance to buy a few projects in Zimbabwe but they were not appealing, he said.
“The geology and style of projects are not something I believe would attract us but it’s not a political issue.”
Following the removal of President Robert Mugabe last year, Zimbabwe appointed a new mining minister and in December limited its 51 percent local ownership law in mining companies to platinum and diamond mining to attract investment.
“You want to go where foreign direct investment is welcome,” Clarke said. “That is what you look for when you go to invest somewhere. You want security that you are safe, and that there is security over your money or the assets you have.”
CAML would maintain its dividend payout next year should commodity prices stay at current levels, Clarke said.
Copper gained 30 percent last year due to supply disruptions and higher demand from China. The metal used in power and construction is expected to be in deficit this year, a Reuters poll showed last month.
Reporting by Zandi Shabalala, editing by David Evans