* Plans acquisition to double output to 200 mln lbs
* Willing to pay up to C$1 bln
* Has cash, willing to take on debt
* Willing to purchase less developed assets
(Recasts with details about potential acquisition targets)
By Pav Jordan
TORONTO, March 7 Copper miner Capstone Mining (CS.TO) says it's on the acquisition trail, willing to spend up to C$1 billion ($1.03 billion) for a rival as it seeks to double its copper production.
Brad Mercer, vice-president for exploration, said on Monday the company is on the lookout for a "merger of equals," and would consider a bid for a rival with assets that are at an earlier stage of development than its own.
"I think first and foremost we are looking for a company that would double our production, so take us from 100 million pounds a year to something in the range of 200 million pounds a year, and a merger of equals," he told Reuters after a presentation at the PDAC prospectors and developers convention in Toronto.
"We are looking a little further down the food chain than we were a few years ago, because there are not a lot of quality assets out there at the right price these days in this boom," he added. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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Prices for copper, Capstone's main product, are rising on strong demand from China and other Asian economies, and miners are racing to boost production.
Copper CMCU3 for three-month delivery on the London Metal Exchange has risen by two-thirds since June, hitting an all-time high of $10,190 per tonne in mid-February. The metal, used in power lines, construction and industrial applications, was trading at $9,614 on Monday.
"We are very aggressively looking at M&A opportunities," said Mercer, adding that the company would prefer a tie-up with a company that has assets in the Americas, Australia or in certain parts of Asia.
"I think we could easily acquire something under a billion dollars and build it," he said, adding that the company has some C$200 million in cash and is willing to take on debt.
Capstone, with a market capitalization of about C$1 billion, owns mining assets in the Mexico and Canada's Yukon Territory.
(Editing by Frank McGurty)