JCHX closes in on Zambian copper mine deal as China tightens Africa grip

JCHX Mining is on the verge of finalizing a deal to acquire Zambia’s Lubambe copper mine, according to two sources who spoke with Reuters. This acquisition marks another step in the series of copper deals pursued by Chinese firms eager to expand their influence in Africa’s copper mining sector.

The Shanghai-listed mining services and contracting firm is close to purchasing an 80% stake in the Lubambe mine from EMR Capital, the sources indicated.

JCHX nearly lost this opportunity when International Resources Holding (IRH), a well-funded Abu Dhabi-based company, expressed interest in the same assets earlier this year. IRH is a subsidiary of International Holding Company, the UAE’s most valuable enterprise.

However, the sources revealed that IRH has since withdrawn, allowing JCHX to proceed unimpeded and close the deal in the coming weeks.

The energy transition has intensified the race between China and the Middle East to access Africa’s reserves of critical raw materials essential for reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Oil-rich nations are beginning to follow China’s lead in investing heavily in these resources.

“We are happy to state the transaction as announced is on track and we anticipate closing in the coming weeks,” EMR’s CEO, Jason Chang, told Reuters. “Some elements of the process are not within our control.”

JCHX is working on finalizing the purchase details with Zambian authorities, having already reached an agreement with EMR, one source mentioned. EMR, which acquired the Lubambe mine in 2017, seeks to exit the project as its funds mature, following Covid-19-related delays in development. EMR also sold its stake in the adjacent Mingomba copper project to KoBold Metals, a California-based startup, for an undisclosed amount.

IRH, after acquiring a 51% stake in Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines, is actively seeking further opportunities to expand in the critical metals sector within Zambia and across the continent.

Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, will retain a 30% stake in the Lubambe assets through the state-owned firm ZCCM-IH, as stated by Hapenga Kabeta, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines. The ZCCM board has approved JCHX’s purchase of the Lubambe mine, Kabeta confirmed. ZCCM, which primarily invests in mining and energy sectors on behalf of the government, declined to comment.

JCHX did not immediately respond to emailed inquiries. Lubambe, previously owned by African Rainbow Minerals and Vale SA, produced approximately 15,000 tons of copper last year. The mine aims to increase output to around 2,500 tons per month to achieve sustainability, according to its website.

China continues to aggressively seek copper, cobalt, and lithium deals in Africa to support its burgeoning electric vehicle industry. MMG, supported by state-owned China Minmetals NonFerrous Co., recently acquired Botswana’s Khoemacau copper mine for about $1.9 billion.

Chinese investors are the largest mining stakeholders in Zambia’s northern neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also the world’s leading cobalt producer.

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