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There was a time when it seemed South32 CEO Graham Kerr might have to rename his company. That was because the group, despite being founded on BHP’s offcuts in the southern hemisphere, was investing entirely in North American growth. Then came the $1.5bn purchase of Sumitomo’s 45% stake in Sierra Gorda, an operating copper mine in Chile.

The deal, in October, was a game-changing moment for South32. It provided immediate cash flow to South32 at a time when the copper price was surging through decade highs. The metal has cooled of late amid global recession concerns, but the cycle appears largely intact, given the forecast supply deficits over the next five to 10 years...

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