Red dirt to red metal: Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting persists with South American copper push

Simone Grogan
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Australia’s richest person has been steadily building a foothold across various commodities in the past few years after making her fortune in iron ore.
Australia’s richest person has been steadily building a foothold across various commodities in the past few years after making her fortune in iron ore. Credit: unknown/supplied by Hancock Prospecting

Gina Rinehart has shaken hands on a deal to spend up to $US120 million ($186m) on an early-stage copper find in Ecuador, an emerging mining destination that’s becoming of increased interest to the mining billionaire.

Listed Subiaco-based explorer Titan Minerals announced on Thursday it had struck terms for an earn-in and joint venture arrangement that will give Hancock Prospecting subsidiary Hanrine scope to buy up to 80 per cent of the Linderos copper project.

Under the new deal with Titan, Hanrine will chip in an initial $US2m and spend more incrementally based on drilling milestones the explorer completes up to $US120m, or if and when there’s a decision to start mining Linderos.

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Titan’s chief executive Melanie Leighton called the joint venture an endorsement of the project and an “excellent outcome” for Titan shareholders. The company’s stock jumped more than 15 per cent in early trade as the news hit the market.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with Hancock’s Ecuadorian subsidiary company, Hanrine, who has both the balance sheet and capability to fully explore and develop the Linderos project,” Ms Leighton said.

“Hanrine clearly see the opportunity for large-scale copper, both at the Linderos copper project, and in Ecuador, an emerging mining jurisdiction, having made considerable investment into exploration in Ecuador over recent years.”

Australia’s richest person has been steadily building a foothold across various commodities in the past few years after making her fortune in iron ore.

In March, Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock pledged to spend about $US120m for a 49 per cent stake in six separate parcels of mining land in the northern part of Ecuador, also with the red metal and gold in mind.

Ecuador’s government-owned mining company will own the majority portion of the six parcels and the agreement will add to other exploration prospects Hancock has near the giant Cascabel copper-gold project in the country.

Projected global shortages have jacked up prices for copper, as fellow battery metals lithium and nickel prices flounder in the face of questions about supply and demand, and closely-watched electric vehicle uptake.

A foray into rare earths, a commodity group used in industrial magnets, electric vehicles and defence technology, is under way too.

Hancock shored up a stake in Brazilian Rare Earths via an initial public offer in late 2023. The listed junior is developing the expansive Rocha da Rocha clay rare earths development in the Brazilian province of Bahia State, which hosts a number of rare earths exploration projects.

Just this week, the mining empire emerged with a 5.8 per cent slice of Lynas Rare Earths, considered the only producer of its namesake commodity outside of China. The mining billionaire last month took a piece of another rare earths giant, New York-listed MP Materials, which has been linked to a tie-up with Lynas.

According to Securities Exchange Commission filings Hancock bought about 8.8 million shares of MP Materials, constituting 5.3 per cent of its register.

Hancock is also close to locking down its first major move into lithium. A joint bid with Chile’s Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile to buy Azure Minerals and its Andover lithium project in the Pilbara for $1.7 billion is currently waiting to clear regulatory hurdles.

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