UPDATE 2-Antofagasta to buy Barrick Chile mine, eye more partnerships
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By Nicole Mordant
July 30 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp agreed on Thursday to sell 50 percent of its Zaldivar copper mine in Chile to copper miner Antofagasta Plc for $1 billion in cash, and both parties stressed that this was just the start of more cooperation.
The emergence of family-owned, Chilean-based Antofagasta as the winner of the competitive bidding process for a mine once dubbed the "Andean ATM" is a surprise after market speculation centered on either a Chinese or global miner as the buyer.
Both Barrick and Antofagasta said the deal was a launch pad for future co-operation, likely in Chile where Barrick owns large, unbuilt projects such as Pascua-Lama and Cerro Casale.
"Antofagasta has an outstanding track record of building and operating mines in Chile, and we see this as the first step in an ongoing, collaborative partnership," Barrick Co-President Kelvin Dushnisky said in a statement.
Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd declined to comment on any specific projects for future partnerships.
Antofagasta would become the operator of Zaldivar, an open pit mine, and would be overseen by a board consisting of three nominees from each company.
Zaldivar is situated in northern Chile's main copper-producing area right next to BHP Plc and Rio Tinto-owned Escondida, the world's largest copper mine. Both BHP and Escondida itself had been tipped as potential buyers, as was China Molybdenum Luoyang Co. Continued...