First Quantum Minerals Ltd. recently rebuffed an informal takeover approach from Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s second-largest producer of the precious metal, as miners scour the globe for deals, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Barrick made overtures to First Quantum in the last few months as part of its search for ways to expand in copper, the people said. First Quantum indicated it wasn’t keen on a combination and declined to enter any substantive talks, according to the people. 

Shares of First Quantum jumped as much as 13 per cent in Canadian trading Thursday, the biggest intraday gain since November. The stock was up 7.8 per cent at 2.06 p.m. in Toronto, valuing the company at US$17.3 billion. Barrick fell 1.7 per cent in New York trading, giving the company a market value of US$28.9 billion.

Barrick and First Quantum aren’t currently in formal discussions, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. It remains unclear whether Barrick will revive its interest, according to the people.

Representatives for Barrick and First Quantum declined to comment.


Barrick Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow got the top job when the mining company he founded, Randgold Resources Ltd., was taken over by Barrick in a zero-premium deal completed in 2019. The South African has since expounded the virtue of doing deals to create value, not just to get bigger, and talked down the need for bumper premiums. 

Soon after taking the top job at Barrick, he went after Newmont Corp. with a hostile all-share no-premium bid that ultimately failed. By contrast, recent takeovers in the copper space have come with big premiums. 

BHP Group Ltd. offered a 49 per cent premium to OZ Minerals Ltd.’s undisturbed share price to seal a A$9.6 billion (US$6.6 billion) deal for the Australian miner. Rio Tinto Group last year bought out minority shareholders of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., which is developing a massive Mongolian copper project, for 67 per cent above its last close before the bid was unveiled. 

“Valuation is a significant hurdle,” Citigroup Inc. analysts Alexander Hacking and Steven Stroup said in a Thursday note. “Barrick has been disciplined on M&A recently and to make such an offer would imply a very bullish outlook for copper versus gold.”

While the proposed deal may never materialize, it does emphasize that First Quantum appears to be the most acquirable large-scale copper miner, the analysts said.

A deal with First Quantum would transform Barrick into a significant copper miner when the industry’s largest players are all seeking to expand production of the wiring metal. BHP and Rio Tinto are actively looking to grow their copper exposure, while Glencore Plc is pursuing an unsolicited US$23 billion takeover bid for Canada’s Teck Resources Ltd., chiefly to acquire its giant South American copper mines. 

Barrick’s move mirrors a wider groundswell of dealmaking interest across the world’s biggest miners — particularly focused on metals like copper and lithium that will be central to decarbonizing the global economy.


The Canadian company also faces its own unique set of challenges. Barrick, once the world’s largest bullion producer, is wrestling with gold output at its lowest level since 2000 after a multiyear strategy to cut debt and sell off assets. Meanwhile, perennial rival Newmont is on track to close a deal with Newcrest Mining Ltd. that would cement its status as the biggest gold producer, leaving Barrick little chance of catching up anytime soon.

Bristow has spoken emphatically about the need for gold companies to enter the race for copper growth. He’s said that copper output is critical “if you want to be relevant” in mining, and last year launched an ambitious US$7 billion copper project in Pakistan that aims to be operational by 2028. 

Canada’s First Quantum has long been viewed as a takeover target in the mining industry, primarily for its massive copper mine in Panama. The operation, which accounts for about 1.5 per cent of global copper production, recently emerged from a monthslong dispute with the Panamanian government. 

First Quantum also owns copper, gold and nickel mines in Africa, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.