SANTIAGO June 30 (Reuters) - Chile's giant copper miner, Codelco [CODEL.UL], and major producer Antofagasta Minerals (ANTO.L) are studying a joint venture to explore mining assets in northern Chile, a local daily paper said on Wednesday.
State-run Codelco, the world's top copper producer, has limited funding to explore its vast mining holdings in Chile, which could help replace older resources that are increasingly more difficult and expensive to mine.
Citing unnamed industry sources, daily El Mercurio said Codelco plans to allow Antofagasta to explore its concessions near the Sierra Gorda area in the Atacama desert.
Antofagasta would run with the expenses of surveying the site, the paper said, but did not provide an investment estimate.
Antofagasta, owned by Chile's Luksic family, is moving aggressively to expand its mining assets and currently has operations in the United States and Asia.
Critics say large companies such as Codelco and global giant BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L) hold most of the mining concessions in No. 1 copper producer Chile, making it increasingly difficult for junior companies to get a piece of the action and find new giant deposits.
No officials at either Codelco or Antofagasta were immediately available for comment on the report.