Barrick Gold, the world’s biggest gold producer, has made an agreed C$7.3bn ($7.6bn) offer for Equinox Minerals, the Australian-Canadian copper miner that has been the target of a hostile offer from China’s Minmetals Resources.

The bid is another sign of the scramble for raw materials and signals an expansion of Barrick’s ambitions in the global mining industry.

The Toronto-based Barrick has offered C$8.15 a share for Equinox, compared with Minmetals’ C$7 per share offer. Craig Williams, Equinox’s chief executive, said Barrick’s offer “is superior to the public proposal made by Minmetals in terms of certainty and value”.

Minmetals on Tuesday announced that it had withdrawn its offer. Shares in the company, which ranks among China’s largest metals traders and has so far been one of the bolder Chinese miners in terms of overseas deals, fell 13 per cent on Tuesday on news of the deal’s collapse.

However, Peter Munk, Barrick’s chairman, told the Financial Times that Minmetals has a “much better chance to expand their access to minerals by co-operating with companies like us”. He added: “Having an auction is not in the interests of anybody.”

Barrick’s shares fell more than 5 per cent in morning trading on Monday to C$50.27 on fears that it is paying too much.

However, Mr Munk dismissed such concerns, noting that the acquisition of Equinox would immediately contribute to Barrick’s earnings. Mr Munk said: “With copper, you’re opening up a whole new door where you can provide really meaningful growth while retaining your exposure to gold.”

Industry advisers said that, while the acquisition looked expensive relative to Equinox’s earnings, that would not take into account reserves and prospective production.

Barrick expects to produce about 7.8m ounces of gold this year and 300m lbs of copper, mainly from the Zaldivar mine in northern Chile. Mr Munk said its copper output could potentially quadruple with the help of the Equinox acquisition.

Equinox has agreed to pay a C$250m termination fee if it accepts a superior proposal from another bidder. Barrick said that it has acquired a stake of about 2 per cent in Equinox.

Additional reporting by Leslie Hook in Beijing

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