Barrick Gold has denied claims made in a Canadian newspaper that one of the gold miner’s executives had met with First Quantum representatives in Panama last week to discuss buying the troubled copper miner.

Citing a Panamanian Government source, the Globe and Mail reported that Juana Barceló, president of Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo operations in the Dominican Republic, met First Quantum officials in Panama to discuss a possible merger or buyout.

Barrick said that Barceló has not been in Panama since a mining conference in early 2023 and has not been in contact with anyone at First Quantum.

Bloomberg has also reported that Barrick is gauging support for a potential deal with First Quantum from the target’s top shareholders.

First Quantum has been plagued by troubles at its Cobre Panama copper mine. In November, protestors blocked off key power supplies to the mine, leading to a forcible suspension of operations. Shortly afterwards, Panama’s supreme court declared First Quantum’s contract to operate the mine unconstitutional.

The Cobre Panama mine produced around 1.5% of global copper supply in 2022 and was responsible for around 40% of First Quantum’s revenue.

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By GlobalData

First Quantum has considered selling smaller mines and potentially selling stakes in larger operations to offset financial damage caused by the closure of Cobre Panama.

Other saving measures announced in recent days have included a suspension of dividends, offering voluntary retirement to more than 1,500 Panamanian employees and halting the Ravensthorpe nickel operation in Western Australia for the next two years.

Meanwhile, Barrick has been expanding its presence in copper mining, setting the goal of doubling its production of the metal to one billion pounds by 2031. However, chief executive Mark Bristow is understood to consider Panama a difficult jurisdiction to operate in.