SANTIAGO, July 1 (Reuters) - Chile's state-owned Codelco plans to invest $400 million in a molybdenum processing plant and intends to maximize its value in a legal bout with global miner Anglo American Plc, the chief executive of the world's top copper producer told the Sunday edition of a local paper.
Codelco, which is already the world's No. 2 producer of molybdenum, will build the plant in Chile's mineral-rich north around 2015 and become a direct competitor with the world's leading molybdenum processor, Chile's Molymet.
"We are adding value to the company. We're paving the way to consolidate Codelco as the second- and first-biggest producer of molybdenum in the world," CEO Thomas Keller said in an interview with newspaper La Tercera.
Last year, Codelco sold 22,800 tonnes of the metal used to harden steel and will ramp up its molybdenum production once it transforms its century-old, massive Chuquicamata mine into an underground operation.
"It's a project that will allow us to directly sell a good chunk of our molybdenum production as commercial molybdenum because what we sell currently is molybdenum concentrate," Keller said.
Regarding Codelco's dispute with Anglo over copper assets in south-central Chile, Keller said the negotiation window, which was already extended to July 17 from June 22, could legally be extended further.
"A good agreement could be better than a good trial and our responsibility is not to take a comfortable position for management," but to seek to maximize value for Codelco, Keller said.
The contract conflict between Codelco and Anglo centers on an option agreement dating to 1978.
Codelco said in October it would exercise the option to buy a 49 percent stake in Anglo American Sur (AAS) when the option window opened in January. But weeks later, Anglo surprised everyone with the pre-emptive sale of a 24.5 percent stake in AAS to Mitsubishi Corp, in a $5.4 billion deal that dented Codelco's ambitions but which it says secured better value for investors.
Since then, the companies have been tussling for the properties, which include the promising Los Bronces mine that used to be called La Disputada, "the disputed one," in Spanish.
"At some point, the interest that we might have in AngloSur could become part of an international platform for Codelco," Keller said.