UPDATE 1-Freeport to sell Tenke copper interest to China Molybdenum

Mon May 9, 2016 7:23am EDT
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May 9 (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Inc said on Monday it would sell its 70 percent stake in a unit controlling the Tenke copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to China Molybdenum Co Ltd (CMOC) for $2.65 billion.

Freeport, like other big miners has been selling assets to cut debt, while China has been snapping up commodity assets around the world to feed its massive economy.

China is heavily reliant on imported copper for its smelters and Chinese companies have been looking to buy overseas mines.

CMOC, one of China's largest producers of molybdenum, agreed last month to pay $1.5 billion to buy Anglo American Plc's niobium and phosphates business in Brazil.

Freeport said on Monday it would receive another $60 million from CMOC if the average copper price exceeds $3.50 per pound and $60 million if the average cobalt price exceeds $20 per pound between 2018 and 2019.

The U.S. miner owns 70 percent of TF Holdings Ltd, a Bermuda holding company that indirectly owns an 80 percent interest in Tenke Fungurume Mining SA.

Freeport, the world's biggest listed copper producer, has an effective 56 percent interest in the Tenke project, one of the world's largest copper-cobalt deposits.

Lundin Mining Corp holds a 24 percent stake in the project and the DRC's state mining company holds 20 percent.

Freeport also said it had agreed to negotiate exclusively with CMOC for the sale of its interests in Freeport Cobalt, including the Kokkola Cobalt Refinery in Finland and the Kisanfu Exploration project in the DRC.

Freeport, whose debt stands at nearly $21 billion, has announced asset sales worth more than $4 billion this year. (Reporting by Anet Josline Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)