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The Weirdest Mining M&A Partner I've Seen

The past several years we've seen a lot of different buyers for mining projects globally. Corporations, investment funds, sovereign wealth funds, and international financial agencies have all gone in for project purchases.

But yesterday we got news of one of the strangest-sounding buyers I've come across. For mining projects being shed by precious metals developer Aquarius Platinum in South Africa.

That purchaser is the China National Arts & Crafts Corporation. Who Aquarius announced will buy the Blue Ridge platinum project for a total $37 million in cash.

An arts and crafts corporation sounds like an odd owner for the Blue Ridge project. Which includes a developed underground platinum mine, currently placed on care and maintenance due to low metals prices. Are a bunch of scrapbookers going to be out re-starting the dump trucks?

But the deal actually makes more sense after a look at who Arts & Crafts Corporation is. And suggests some interesting trends developing in the platinum business.

The buying group in fact isn't a corporation at all. It's a Chinese government enterprise. One whose mission is to "bring the traditional Chinese culture to the world", according to its website.

Arts & Craft Corp thus deals in things like textiles, ceramics, fine art and jewellery. That last arena apparently being the driver for its interest in platinum mining.

In fact, the group is involved in the import and export of several jewellery-making materials. Including silver, gold, and diamonds. It also happens to be an affiliate of China Platinum Company--a firm that serves as the main import channel for platinum into China.

It would thus appear from yesterday's deal that the company has made a strategic decision to move beyond just import of platinum. And into upstream mining development--taking direct ownership of producing centres and the associated output.

This is a very significant signal. Showing us that Chinese interest in platinum is perhaps ramping up. And that Chinese buyers may represent an expanding source of funding for platinum projects globally.

We'll see if more deals follow from the arts and crafts folks.

Here's to being crafty,

By. Dave Forest




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