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Vedanta seeks deals with traders to help fund Zambia copper mine

A truck moving ore at Vedanta's Konkola Copper Mines, in Zambia

Photo by Bloomberg

29th April 2024

By: Bloomberg

  

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Vedanta Resources has approached trading houses as it seeks to raise capital to revive the Konkola copper mining and smelting complex in Zambia.

Billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta has discussed tolling and prepayment facilities with commodity traders, including Mercuria Energy Group, for output from Konkola Copper Mines, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s also examining the sale of a minority stake in KCM as it explores ways to pay off creditors and invest in the mines that entered provisional liquidation in 2019, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private.

Vedanta resolved its legal dispute with Zambia over the copper assets in September, with the company agreeing to pay $250 million to settle some of KCM’s obligations to suppliers and to commit an additional $1-billion over five years to an underground expansion. The operation will be returned to Vedanta if KCM’s creditors approve the debt-repayment deal next month.

The talks highlight the hurdles Vedanta is facing to take back and retain one of its prized assets, as Zambia has set financial deadlines as a condition for ending years of legal back and forth over ownership of KCM.

Vedanta is trying to raise about $1.4-billion in total, focusing initially on cash to help it cover the upcoming payments to KCM’s creditors, the people said. After that, the company is also looking to find a buyer for a minority interest in KCM to raise the rest of the money, they said.

“We are engaging with prospective partners for both short-term financing and longer-term equity financing but cannot disclose the names of these partners/investors due to the sensitive stage these discussions have reached,” a spokesperson for Vedanta said in response to Bloomberg requests for comment.

Prepayment facilities – where trading houses advance miners cash that is amortized through commodity deliveries – are a common practice in an industry where banks are increasingly reluctant to provide financing, even as prices for copper rise above $10 000 a ton.

KCM was placed into provisional liquidation after the previous Zambian government said Vedanta lied about expansion plans and paid too little tax. Agarwal’s company denied the allegations.

The flagship operation – Konkola Deep – extends almost a mile underground. It is one of the world’s wettest mines, requiring the equivalent of 140 Olympic-sized swimming pools to be pumped to the surface daily in order to function.

Although equipped with a smelter that can produce more than 300,000 tons of copper a year, KCM’s output in the years before the state’s intervention was less than a third of that capacity. The company produced less than 40,000 tons in 2023. The smelter processes ore extracted at Konkola as well as third-party concentrates.

Edited by Bloomberg

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