December 18, 2018 / 1:12 AM / 6 months ago

Newcrest raises stake in Ecuador copper-gold developer SolGold

MELBOURNE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Australian gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd has raised its holdings in Ecuador gold and copper developer SolGold Plc, nudging further ahead of the company’s second biggest investor BHP Group .

Newcrest International Pty paid 11.148 million pounds ($14.06 million) for 27.87 million shares of SolGold at 0.40 pound per share, a premium of 12.8 percent. That raised its stake to 15.33 percent from 13.83 percent, Newcrest said in a filing to the London bourse, further ahead of BHP’s 11.1 percent holding.

“Clearly Newcrest is maintaining its interest in SolGold and its potential as a Tier 1 orebody,” analyst Daniel Morgan of UBS in Sydney said.

Global miners have been ramping up their exploration for copper which is expected to be in hot demand in the switch to renewable energy because it is highly efficient at transporting power.

BHP bought into SolGold in September before nearly doubling its stake the following month, triggering speculation of a potential takeover battle.

“Both BHP and Newcrest see a lot of potential in the orebody. Newcrest did say at their strategy day... That they are not averse to looking at or developing mines in joint ventures,” Morgan added.

Newcrest has underground block caving expertise which BHP does not have, and which is likely to be required at the Cascabel project because of its porphyry mineralisation. Morgan said that the jury was still out as to whether Cascabel was Tier 1.

Newcrest is already developing a joint venture in its Wafi Golpu project in Papua New Guinea with Harmony Gold Mining . They signed a deal with the government last week to fast track approval for a major mining lease by the end of June 2019.

$1 = 0.7930 pounds Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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