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Ivanhoe Says $4.6 Billion Project May Get New Partner (Update1)
May 20,2010 08:43CST
industry news

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., building a $4.6 billion copper and gold mine in Mongolia with Rio Tinto Group, said it may bring in another partner after receiving interest in the Oyu Tolgoi project.

"This is likely to have another participant before it's all over," Deputy Chairman Peter Meredith said today at a conference in London. "We've had a lot interest from other majors but our partner is Rio Tinto so we have to be respectful of what their dreams and desires are."

The company spent more than six years negotiating an accord with Mongolia over the project, which Rio has described as the world's largest untapped copper and gold resource. Ivanhoe said in January it hired Citigroup Inc. to study options, including debt and equity offerings and asset sales. The company wants to maintain control of the project, Meredith said.

It may make sense for Chinese interests to study investment in the mine, he said. SouthGobi Resources Ltd., a coal producer in Mongolia 57 percent-held by Ivanhoe, last year sold $500 million of convertible bonds to China Investment Corp., the sovereign wealth fund of the world's most populous nation.

"Mongolia's a fledgling place where the multiples haven't reached the limits that you get elsewhere," Meredith told reporters in London today. "If CIC or other folk were thinking of investment, that's probably a pretty good place to look providing the values are there and the numbers are there."

Ivanhoe holds 66 percent of Oyu Tolgoi and Mongolia the rest. Rio, the world's third largest mining company, owns 22.4 percent of Ivanhoe and has an option to increase its stake to about 44 percent.

The 81.3 billion pounds of copper and 46.4 million ounces of gold at Oyu Tolgoi may give the site a 59-year life, Ivanhoe said this month. The mine will produce an average of 1.2 billion pounds of copper and 650,000 ounces of gold a year for the first decade. Production is scheduled to begin in 2013.

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