Freeport eyes majority stake in Solaris early stage Chile project

Canada’s Solaris Copper, which spun out of Equinox Gold in June, received a shot in the arm on Thursday as Freeport McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) has agreed to a deal that would give the US miner up to 80% in the Vancouver company’s early stage Ricardo property, in Chile.

The option agreement, Solaris said, provides for a three-staged process by which Freeport can earn up a majority interest in the Chilean the grassroots exploration asset for gross expenditures of $130 million or $30 million plus the delivery of a feasibility study for a mine at the site.

The Ricardo property consists of about 14,000 hectares along the West Fissure fault in Chile, 25 km south of Codelco’s Chuquicamata mine.

“Exploration at the prospective Ricardo property will be significantly enhanced by the technical and financial capacity of Freeport,” commented Solaris chief executive Greg Smith said in the statement.

The Ricardo property consists of about 14,000 hectares along the West Fissure fault in Chile, 25 km south of Codelco’s Chuquicamata mine, the world's largest open pit copper mine and the state-owned miner’s second largest operation by size.

Partnering with Freeport in advancing Ricardo would allow Solaris to focus on its flagship Warintza copper-molybdenum project in Ecuador, the company said.

Copper deposits are among the hottest assets in mining right now, with the world’s top producers becoming increasingly bullish on the metal. There are expectations that bigger power grids around the world and an electric-vehicle boom will boost demand, while supplies are constrained.

Solaris Copper also holds a 60% interest in the La Verde copper-silver-gold property in Mexico with the remaining 40% held by a subsidiary of Teck Resources, and has earn-in agreements for two early-stage base metals projects in Peru.