Tuesday 27th October 2020

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Global top 40 miners stand up to pandemic but face further challenges, says PwC

by Greg Klein | July 24, 2020

For all the tribulations facing mining, the industry has been faring well compared to others. That’s the verdict of the recent PwC report Mine 2020: Resilient and Resourceful. But the publication warns that caution, adaptation and innovation must continue to safeguard the future.

Global top 40 miners stand up to pandemic but face further challenges, says PwC

If the top 40’s performance reflects the wider industry,
mining will prevail over the pandemic, this report maintains.
(Photo: PwC)

The survey looks at the world’s top 40 listed miners by market cap as of December 31. For the third year in a row, six Canadian companies made the list.

The IMF predicts global economic contraction of 3% this year, only the third comparable event since 1944. Yet PwC maintains that mining’s top 40 “are in an excellent position to weather the storm.”

Although the companies’ 2019 EBITDA performance remained flat at US$168 billion, PwC foresees a 6% decline this year, with capital spending falling at least 20% due to reduced revenue as well as pandemic-related staffing and mobilization difficulties.

Still, the decline will be temporary as past performance puts the top 40 “in a strong financial position as they enter one of the more uncertain economic periods in living memory. Liquidity is improved, and solvency is consistent.”

The pandemic’s effect on commodity prices ranges from double-digit drops for copper, nickel and zinc, to record prices for gold. Iron ore has remained relatively steady and looks promising due to early recovery in China and strong GDP growth predicted for that country and India in coming years.

In a recommendation that itself presents challenges, however, PwC suggests miners seek greater diversification of customers to wean themselves off of the two Asian giants.

Mining companies may think they’re an unlikely target for cyberattacks, but as reliance on autonomous and digital technology grows, so too does the cybersecurity risk. And the consequences can be a matter of life or death.—PwC Mine 2020

As for gold’s steep ascent, “don’t expect this to continue.” With 2020 yellow metal M&A down 33% from the same period last year, “gold miners appear to have learnt their mistakes from the early 2010s and are avoiding the pitfalls of pursuing large cash and debt-backed deals in a rising price environment. We expect gold deals to be less frequent and smaller this year and next, with more transactions on a scrip-for-scrip basis.”

Under the circumstances smaller, local property acquisitions might prove more attractive to the top miners. Locally available resources, along with globally diverse deposits, would help strengthen critical supply chains too. Pointing to fragile links further weakened by COVID-19, PwC also called for improved inventory management. The measures “would not only de-risk mining companies against a similarly disruptive event but also help develop and build resilience in local communities,” the report states. “Many are already doing it; Anglo American, Nornickel and BHP among others, have announced initiatives to increase support for their domestic suppliers as a result of the pandemic.”

PwC also emphasized the need to strengthen cybersecurity, and to address environmental, social and governance accountability, calling for a global ESG standard.

For the third year running, six Canadian companies made the top 40 list with the present group including Barrick Gold TSX:ABX, Agnico Eagle Mines Group TSX:AEM, Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B, Kirkland Lake Gold TSX:KL, First Quantum Minerals TSX:FM and Kinross Gold TSX:K. Newcomer Kinross kept Canada’s half-dozen steady following the takeover of Goldcorp by Denver-headquartered Newmont TSX:NGT. Among companies poised to join next year is Vancouver-headquartered Pan American Silver TSX:PAAS.

Read the PwC report.

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