SYDNEY Dec 1 (Reuters) - International commodities trader Noble Group has formed an alliance with Australia's Aspire Mining to market Mongolian coking coal, driving Aspire's shares up sharply on Thursday.
The alliance giving Noble marketing rights to at least half of the first 5 million tonnes of coking coal produced at Aspire's Ovoot mining project marks the latest move by Noble into Mongolia's burgeoning coal sector.
Shares in Aspire galloped more than 12 percent after the partnership was announced to A$0.32. The stock traded as high as A$1.14 in April, but has been in near-steady decline ever since.
Earlier this year, Noble partnered with Australia's Xanadu Mines, which is also exploring for minerals in Mongolia alongside sector behemoths, including Rio Tinto , Xstrata and Vale.
Mongolia sits on vast quantities of mineral wealth and analysts predict it could be one of the fastest growing economies of the next decade. This month production is scheduled to start from the eastern block of the giant Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the Gobi desert.
"The strategic alliance with the Noble Group is an important step for the company as it pushes ahead with development of the Ovoot coking coal project," Managing Director David Paull said.
Noble, which currently owns 8.3 percent of Aspire, is one of the world's largest commodity trading and logistics companies and moves coal into most major global markets.
Aspire in October raised A$32.8 million via a discounted placement of new shares to fund exploration at the Ovoot site in Northern Mongolia.
Exploration work so far shows a resource of 330 million tonnes of coal, with further work underway to increase the estimate, according to Paull.
Aspire's biggest shareholder, SouthGobi Resources, majority held by Canadian miner Ivanhoe Mines, at the time exercised anti-dilution rights to retain its 19.9 percent stake in Aspire.
Vancouver-based Ivanhoe, which is led by Robert Friedland and is 48.5 percent owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto, is focused on developing the Oyu Tolgoi project, which is located in Mongolia's South Gobi region and is one of the largest known copper deposits in the world.