October 28, 2011 / 2:34 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Inmet says interest in Panama project stays strong

* Says continues talks with parties keen on buying stake

* Says interest strong despite global economic woes

* Hopes for deal before the end of the year

* Inmet shares up 8.3 pct in morning trading (Adds details on comments from conference call)

TORONTO, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Canadian base metal miner Inmet IMN.TO said on Friday that talks with parties interested in buying a stake in its Cobre Panama copper project in Central America are continuing and that there has been no dip in interest despite current global economic concerns.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to conclude something before the end of the year. If it enters 2012 that’s not really that critical either,” Chief Executive Jochen Tilk told analysts on the company’s earnings conference call.

Tilk said the company is proceeding with work at the Panamanian mine site as talks continue, ensuring that the project is not delayed. Inmet considers the project, which is expected to cost more than $5 billion, vital to its growth prospects.

Inmet reported a 10 percent increase in its third-quarter profit late on Thursday. [ID:nN1E79Q2ET]

Its shares were up 8.3 percent at C$61.63 on Friday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The Toronto-based company said it is still awaiting the Panamanian government’s final environmental approval, necessary for the project to proceed. Under a deal signed a few year ago, South Korean copper producer LS-Nikko has an option to buy a 20 percent stake in Cobre Panama within seven days of receipt of the government’s final environmental approval of the project.

Inmet’s ongoing talks are aimed at selling a further 20 to 40 percent, which would help Inmet finance its portion of the development costs.

Tilk said the company would rather strike a deal with an experienced mining company than a financial partner, as their goals are more likely to be aligned. [ID:nN1E7730L9]

The project is expected to produce 255,000 tonnes of copper on average, a year over a 30-plus year mine life. It is also expected to produce sizable volumes of gold, molybdenum and silver as byproducts.

$1=$0.99 Canadian Reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Peter Galloway

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