BHP bows out of tussle with ‘Twiggy’ Forrest for Canadian nickel miner

Mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest looks set to acquire Canadian nickel miner Noront Resources after BHP bowed out of a months-long bidding war for control of the company with its claim on promising reserves of the sought-after electric battery material.

BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, on Wednesday said it would not match a $C1.10-per-share cash offer for Noront by Dr Forrest’s privately owned Wyloo Metals, saying it did not see “adequate long-term value” for BHP shareholders.

Fortescue founder Andrew Forrest and BHP have been locked in a months-long tussle over Noront.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Wyloo Metals chief executive Luca Giacovazzi said it was an “exciting time” to be an investor in future-facing metals that will be increasingly needed to power the clean-energy era.

“Battery and hydrogen technologies are unleashing the full potential of renewable energy and the supply of critical metals simply isn’t keeping up,” Mr Giacovazzi said. “This is the greatest shift in the global economy since the Industrial Revolution.”

The tussle for Toronto-listed Noront is the latest sign of mining heavyweights’ accelerating efforts to secure greater supplies of electric battery ingredients such as nickel, copper and lithium ahead of an expected surge in demand from the electric vehicle revolution.

Noront has a significant claim in one of Canada’s biggest potential high-grade nickel deposits in the largely undeveloped “Ring of Fire” region in northern Ontario.

Although electric cars account for about 3 per cent of new vehicle sales, uptake is lifting in China, the United States and Europe, with BHP describing 2020 as an “inflection point” in electric vehicle uptake.

BHP, whose main commodities include iron ore and metallurgical coal, is seeking to diversify into battery metals.

This year, BHP agreed to sell its oil and gas division to Woodside Petroleum, partly to free up its ability to increase spending on “future-facing” commodities. It has also struck deals with Elon Musk’s Tesla and a lithium-ion battery maker owned by Toyota and Panasonic to supply nickel from WA’s Nickel West mining, smelting and refining operations.

The Dr Forrest-backed mining giant Fortescue Metals Group has been accelerating a push into zero-emissions hydrogen projects, as well as wind, solar and hydropower projects in Australia and around the world.

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