Australian explorer hunts for copper in Andes

The Herald Sun has an interesting feature piece on Chinalco Yunnan Copper Resources, an Australian company with Chinese backing that is partnering with Rio Tinto on three early-stage exploration projects in Chile. One of the projects, Candelabro, is a copper porphyry within range of BHP Billiton's Cerro Colorado mine and BHP/Rio Tinto's Escondida mine, which holds 7% of the world's copper and is being expanded to produce 1.3 million tonnes per annum.

According to a Dow Jones Newswire report last fall, Chinalco Yunnan has agreements with Rio to farm-in to the projects:

The company's subsidiary can earn a 40 per cent stake in the Candelabro project with drill work and an investment of $US8 million ($7.5m), including a minimum spend of $US250,000 in the first year, after which Rio will have 90 days to either resume management of the project, or grant the company a further three years to invest $US15m to take its interest to 60 per cent. If Rio maintains its 60 per cent controlling stake, then a joint venture company will be formed between the companies, it said.

Last year, Rio Tinto and state-owned aluminum producer Chinalco formed an exploration joint venture in China to explore for copper and other metals. The two companies are also developing the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea.