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BHP among those eyeing Ecuador's Llurimagua copper project

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2020
BHP among those eyeing Ecuador's Llurimagua copper project

Several companies are interested in acquiring the Ecuadoran government’s 51% stake in the JV being formed to develop the Llurimagua copper-molybdenum project, including Australia’s BHP, according to a high-level source.

After overcoming a series of delays, the process of creating the JV between Ecuador’s state-owned mining Enami EP and Chile’s state copper producer Codelco is due to be finalized this quarter.

"We’re nearing the end of the road," the source from the energy and non-renewable natural resources ministry told BNamericas. "President [Lenín Moreno] made the decision and we’re moving the process forward."

According to the source, the formation of the new company – in which Enami will have 51% and Codelco the rest – will be finalized in September at the latest. 

Once the company is formed, the government plans to auction its stake to a future operator.

“Obviously Codelco will have the first option; the award will depend on the offers. There are already several stakeholders interested, including BHP," added the source.

The decision to auction Ecuador's participation in the project comes amid the serious crisis that is battering the country as a result of COVID-19 and the collapse of the price of its main export product, oil.

The source said that Ecuador is not in a position to make the multimillion-dollar investment that the project will require to bring it to production.

Llurimagua, in northern Imbabura province, is in the advanced exploration phase and in 2023 its prefeasibility and feasibility studies should be complete.

The property is located in the same area as the Cascabel project of Australia’s SolGold, whose Alpala area is among the 10 most important gold, copper and silver deposits in the world, according to the company.

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