Barrick Gold Corporation has revealed that it is considering a full sale of its subsidiary Lumwana Copper Mines (LCM) in North-Western Province, potentially putting nearly 2,000 jobs at risk, as the Canadian miner urgently seeks to divest itself of Zambian operations.

According to a detailed presentation seen by Diggers!, the Canadian mining giant finally announced the much-anticipated sale of its largest copper mining asset in its portfolio.

Addressing journalists during a special presentation in Lusaka on July 15, this year, Barrick Gold Corporation president and chief executive officer Mark Bristow told journalists that Barrick was not going to sell Lumwana amidst heightened speculation that its best-performing copper mine was up for sale.

When asked repeatedly during a question and answer session on whether Lumwana would be sold, Bristow denied any moves to offload the asset despite the ongoing turbulence rocking the mining sector this year, which had seen the implementation of the much-disliked 2019 mining fiscal regime.

“Are we exiting tomorrow? Or do we have a plan to exit? No! We only have a plan to find the best way to bring Lumwana to account. Are we trying to sell Lumwana? No, not necessarily. Are we trying to bring Lumwana to account? The answer is absolutely, yes!” Bristow told journalists at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka.

But when queried further if Barrick had been approached over a prospective outright sale, Bristow revealed approaches had been made.

“We’ve had a number of approaches, particularly driven by the fact that there’ve been tariffs put on concentrates coming in from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). We’ve had high-level conversations with the government on how we participate in this industry and their vision, and their view on how they would like to see the investment climate work out,” said Bristow.

However, a detailed presentation dubbed “Project Lion Opportunity Overview” done in September, 2019 revealed that the Canadian miner actually intended to offload Lumwana, and had even appointed Standard Chartered Bank as its financial advisor for the imminent transaction.

“Barrick Gold Corporation is considering a sale of its 100 per cent-owned Lumwana Copper Mine based in Zambia and the largest copper mine in its portfolio. Barrick has taken the strategic decision to consider a divestment of Lumwana to focus on its core operations in the Company’s global portfolio. Standard Chartered Bank has been appointed as financial adviser by Barrick in connection with the sale process,” Barrick revealed.

“Parties interested in participating in the sale process are invited to execute a confidentiality agreement, which will be provided by SCB.”

Among several of its key, unique selling points to prospective buyers, Barrick described the prospective transaction as a “unique opportunity to acquire 100 per cent of a producing copper asset, with immediate exposure to production facilities capable of producing in excess of 125,000 metric tonnes of copper per annum contained in concentrate.”

Additionally, the mine explained that it currently held mining licences covering 1,200 square kilometres, providing the prospective new owner with significant exploration prospects.

LCM employs around 1,800 staff with over 95 per cent consisting of local workers, while it also engages 2,400 contractors on some of its works.

Back in July, this year, Bristow, during the same briefing, said Barrick remained hopeful a resolution could be found to the ongoing 2019 mining fiscal regime impasse, which saw mineral royalty rates hiked by 1.5 percentage points across all levels of the sliding scale, among other measures seen as punitive.

But in spite of his optimism surrounding Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu’s appointment in potentially improving Zambia’s fiscal outlook, the Minister made no changes to the mining fiscal regime during his 2020 budget address in Parliament last month, a development which bitterly disappointed the Zambia Chamber of Mines.

Speaking during Lumwana’s maiden quarterly press briefing at the company’s mine site on April 16, this year, LMC country manager Nathan Chishimba told journalists in Lumwana, a site 65Km west of Solwezi, that the 2019 mining fiscal regime was now a matter of life and death for the mining firm.

Barrick invested over US $1.7 billion towards project development and operations since the 2011 acquisition of Lumwana from Equinox for US $7.6 billion.