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Vale evaluates offers for $2.5 billion base metals unit

Vale’s open-pit mine and concentrator at Voisey’s Bay in Labrador, Canada. (Image courtesy of Vale.)

Vale (NYSE: VALE), the world’s second largest iron ore miner and top nickel producer, has shortlisted suitors for 10% of its base metals business estimated to be worth nearly $2.5 billion.

The Brazilian miner, which last year hired advisers to assess options for the unit, told the Financial Times that top bidders included carmakers, state investors and pension funds.

The stake sale is part of Vale’s decision to separate its iron ore operation from its copper, nickel and platinum assets, into a new firm named Vale Base Metals that will be based in the UK, according to Brazilian media.

The spin-off, yet to be approved by the board, would have independent governance and a board that includes deep underground mining and electric-vehicle specialists. 

Vale Base Metals would have nickel mines in Canada and Indonesia, copper mines in Brazil, and interests in cobalt and platinum group metals.

“This thing can get even bigger than Vale. Not tomorrow, not even next year — when you look long-term,” chief executive Eduardo Bartolomeo told FT.com.

Separating the two sides of the business is key to accessing “competitive” capital needed for an estimated $20 billion of base metal investments, Bartolomeo said in December.

The plan has been on Vale’s cards for years as most nickel and copper assets the company has were acquired via the $17 billion acquisition of Canada’s Inco, in 2006.