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This Copper Giant Is Buying Into An Unexpected Frontier

Oyu Tolgoi mine

Copper has been one of the best-performing commodities of the last few months. With the red metal up over 15 percent since late May, to a current $2.88 per pound.

And that price action is spurring some important project activity. Including a little-noticed, but critical move this week from the world’s largest copper mining company.

That’s Chile state mining firm Codelco. Which said it is preparing an entry into a new and far-afield jurisdiction, in pursuit of new copper reserves.

Mongolia.

In an interview Friday with Reuters, CEO Nelson Pizarro said that Codelco is “preparing” to invest in Mongolia copper projects. With Pizarro noting the country holds significant untapped potential for new developments.

Pizarro further suggested that Codelco will be looking for development-stage projects. Which he described as “medium-term” investments — likely meaning Codelco will take a role in proving up and developing new mineral resources here ahead of putting them into production.

That approach makes sense, given that Mongolia currently has only a few advanced copper mining projects. Led by the massive Oyu Tolgoi deposit being mined by Rio Tinto through the former Ivanhoe Mines vehicle, Turquoise Hill.

But mines like that demonstrate Mongolia’s big potential. With Oyu Tolgoi currently containing an appraised 23.5 million tonnes of contained copper metal, along with 36 million ounces of gold. Related: Will Oil Markets Rebalance Before The OPEC Deal Expires?

Here’s the most critical part: this move would be an incredible step-out for Codelco. Up until now, the copper major has been exclusively focused on mining in Chile and exploring in nearby Latin America — with projects in Brazil and Ecuador.

The fact that management is willing to leap from South America to Mongolia shows they see something big in the geology here — a major endorsement for the country, which has struggled lately to attract mining investment.

Mongolia’s government is trying to change that. Just last week, regulators kicked off a new bid round for mineral projects — which may be where Codelco is planning to pick up new licenses.

Watch for confirmation of Codelco’s entry into this high-potential nation. If the move does materialize, it could signal a new wave of project activity coming here.

Here’s to taking a leap.

By Dave Forest

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