November 17, 2015 / 6:50 AM / 4 years ago

Japan's Sumitomo Metal seeks stakes in copper, gold mines

TOKYO, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Sumitomo Metal Mining is looking to snap up stakes in copper and gold mines, taking advantage of its sound finances and a slump in commodity prices to bolster future growth, its president said.

“We have a perfect opportunity now to make use of strength and pursue good deals that would benefit us in future,” Sumitomo Metal President Yoshiaki Nakazato told a news conference.

A number of companies had approached the firm about possible sales, he said, but declined to elaborate.

Several miners have indicated they are on the look out for copper assets, as slowing demand growth in China, the world’s biggest consumer of industrial metals, has pushed copper prices to six-year lows. Gold is at nearly five year lows.

Companies such as Glencore have come under pressure from investors to cut debt amid a broadranging slump in commodity prices.

Nakazato said Sumitomo Metal was sticking with a long-term goal to boost its annual copper output from the mines in which it holds a stake to 300,000 tonnes in 2021, up from planned output of 175,000 tonnes this year.

Sumitomo Metal was also unlikely to reach full capacity at its Sierra Gorda copper mine in Chile until April or May, he said, confirming indications from another company official last week that the schedule would be delayed from December.

The delay was due to problems with the mine’s molybdenum plant, he said.

The Sierra Gorda mine, owned jointly with Polish producer KGHM Polska Miedz, began commercial production at the end of June and the setback adds to a slew of production delays at Chilean copper mines this year.

While its basic finances are healthy, Japan’s second-biggest copper producer still slashed its full-year profit forecast this month, blaming the plunge in the prices of copper and nickel and the delayed ramp-up at Sierra Gorda. (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Richard Pullin)

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