Newmont CEO affirms Wafi-Golpu ‘will be developed’


Newmont Corporation’s Chief Executive Tom Palmer tells Business Advantage PNG that Papua New Guinea fits well within company’s strategy, but cautions that the prospective Wafi-Golpu copper-gold project will need to compete for capital with other projects in its portfolio.

Newmont’s Tom Palmer. Credit: Melbourne Mining Club

Newmont Corporation’s Chief Executive Tom Palmer has confirmed his company intends to develop the Wafi-Golpu copper-gold project, although without giving a timeline.

“Wafi-Golpu is a fantastic resource. It’s a block-cave copper mine that will be developed. [But] it’s got to compete for capital with a number of other projects in our portfolio,” Palmer told Business Advantage PNG.

“The potential to increase its exposure to copper ‘was a fundamental premise’ behind Newmont’s initial approach to Newcrest two years ago.”

US-headquartered Newmont obtained two PNG assets as part of its US$16.8 billion acquisition of Australia’s Newcrest Mining in 2023. These are the Lihir mine in New Ireland Province, which it owns 100 per cent, and Wafi-Golpu in Morobe Province, in which it has a 50 per cent stake that will be reduced to 35 per cent if PNG exercises its full state equity participation option in the project.

Sarimu Kanu, Managing Director of state nominee Kumul Mineral Holdings Limited, recently told Business Advantage PNG that KMHL was in “the last stages of negotiations” with Newmont and venture partner Harmony Gold on a mining development contract.

PNG’s importance

Palmer, who spoke to Business Advantage PNG following a recent speech to the Melbourne Mining Club, stressed the importance of Papua New Guinea to Newmont.

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“PNG is a country with a lot of natural resources. It’s a country that’s strategically important to Australia and the United States. As a US foreign direct investor in PNG, with Australian connections, we’re almost the perfect combination,” he said.

“The opportunity for us to work in that country, to develop relationships over the long-term with all the stakeholders in PNG, with the support of both the Australian and the US governments, is something that certainly fitted well within our strategy.”

Newmont acquired five operating mines in the Newcrest deal, including Lihir.

In his speech, Palmer said his company installed its own general managers at each mine “on day one” so that “the Newmont expectations around safety, respect at work, and the application of our Full Potential program were clearly understood and were followed through on each and every day.”

This process was completed a couple of months ago, and “we’re now running the operations as if they’ve been in the Newmont portfolio for a number of years,” he said.

Bullish on copper

While Newmont’s acquisition of Newcrest made it the world’s largest gold miner, it was also notable for the addition of 14.5 billion pounds of copper reserves – 35 per cent of it at Wafi Golpu – to its portfolio.

The potential to increase its exposure to copper “was a fundamental premise” behind Newmont’s initial approach to Newcrest two years ago, said Palmer.

Analysts have warned for some time of a looming copper supply deficit, with global consultancy McKinsey projecting that output will fall 6.5 million tonnes short of demand by 2031.

Palmer commented in his speech that while demand projections were driven largely by the energy transition and widespread electrification, a new driver was rapidly emerging in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) and data centres.

“[It’s been] quite remarkable to look back over the last couple of years and to see that move in AI. We didn’t see two years ago that it would put further demand on copper,” he said.

“Our project pipeline is all copper. What we’re going to bring on in copper will then start to complement the gold we’re producing, [which] will further strengthen our business.”

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