Global Wrap: COVID-19, Endeavour and more

IN Global Wrap: more offshore mining companies report coronavirus impacts; and gold M&A.
Global Wrap: COVID-19, Endeavour and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Endeavour and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Endeavour and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Endeavour and more Global Wrap: COVID-19, Endeavour and more

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Freeport-McMoRan said it would suspend its quarterly dividend of US5c per share previously planned for May 1.

The Colorado-based company also announced "an aggressive review" of operating plans at each of its global copper and molybdenum operations with a view to lowering all operating costs and capital spending to achieve maximum cash flow under current market conditions.

This could translate into temporary reductions in copper and molybdenum output at its higher-cost operations in the Americas, increasingly under pressure from low commodity prices. Freeport expects to complete its review "promptly" and will report revised operating and financial plans with its first-quarter results in April.

"The prudent steps we are taking to address costs and capital spending and preserve a strong liquidity position are necessary to maintain flexibility as we respond to current global economic uncertainties and the resulting sharp decline in copper prices in recent weeks," said CEO Richard Adkerson.

The company operates the Grasberg copper-gold mine in Indonesia, and significant operations in North America and South America, including the large-scale Morenci operation in Arizona and Cerro Verde in Peru.

Agnico Eagle Mines and Yamana Gold are suspending Canada's biggest gold mine, Canadian Malartic in Quebec until at least April 13 due to coronavirus.

The Quebec government has ordered companies, including miners, to minimise activities.

Agnico will also suspend the LaRonde Complex and Goldex mine in the Abitibi region of Quebec and reduce activities at Meliadine and Meadowbank in Nunavut, which are serviced out of Quebec.

Both companies have withdrawn 2020 guidance.

Agnico has drawn down $1 billion on its $1.2 billion unsecured revolving bank credit facility, while Yamana drew down $200 million of its $750 million revolving credit facility, but both said there were no plans to use the funds.

Vale has temporarily halted its Teluk Rubiah maritime terminal in Malaysia until at least March 31.

The Asian distribution centre shipped 23.7 million tonnes of iron ore in 2019, and Vale forecast no impact on sales for 2020, but a Q1 impact of 500,000 tonnes.

In a similar move to BHP, Vale also announced it would inject 160 million real into the Brazilian economy by paying small and medium suppliers' invoices.

The company is also installing 81 thermal body cameras at its operations to detect the virus.

Newcrest Mining-backed Lundin Gold has suspended its newly commissioned Fruta del Norte gold mine in Ecuador amid growing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

During the suspension, the company will maintain a workforce at Fruta del Norte to conduct care and maintenance activities and special projects in order to minimise the impacts of the temporary shutdown.

The company could not say how long FDN would be suspended, or the impact on guidance.

Fresh from its failed merger attempt with Centamin, West Africa-focused gold producer Endeavour Mining has agreed to acquire SEMAFO for C$1 billion.

The friendly scrip deal will create a top 15 gold producer, with combined volumes in excess of 1Moz per year.

Sébastien de Montessus, CEO of Endeavour, said the transaction "represents a compelling value equation for both sets of shareholders with the potential for a meaningful re-rating, whilst providing increased asset diversification and enhancing our ability to manage risks within the business".

"With both companies having recently completed build-out phases and mine ramp-ups, the combined business is well positioned for a sustained period of strong cash flows," he said.

SEMAFO, which owns four properties in Burkina Faso and one in Côte d'Ivoire, has endured a torrid past few months after militants attacked a convoy of workers 40km from its Boungou gold mine early November in the Est region of Burkina Faso.

Nearly 40 people were killed in the attack, with dozens more missing or injured. The company's share price has more than halved from over $4 at the beginning of November to around $2 at the end of last week.

Endeavour said it began talks with SEMAFO early 2019, with a proposed transaction drawn up in May.

"At that time, it was not possible to agree on terms which appropriately shared the risks and rewards of a combination," said Endeavour.

The companies expect the transaction to close in the second quarter of 2020, with de Montessus to be CEO of the combined entity.