TIANJIN, China (Reuters) - Rio Tinto is looking for copper and zinc-lead deposits in four Chinese regions, including Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, as part of an exploration venture with state-owned China Minmetals Corp [CHMIN.UL], a spokeswoman for the Anglo-Australian Miner said on Friday.
The two companies set up a 50-50 joint venture (JV) to explore for what they called world-class mineral deposits in China in June 2018, but it was not previously clear which minerals they were looking for or which regions they were targeting.
Technical teams are carrying out field assessments in the major mineral belts of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, as well as in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and northeastern Heilongjiang, the Rio spokesperson said in an email.
“The JV is working with partners to secure targets for testing within these prospective belts.”
Mining projects backed by foreign investors are rare in China, although Ling Yueming, the country’s vice minister of natural resources, told the China Mining conference this week that steps were being taken to open up the state-dominated sector and level the playing field for all firms, whether Chinese or from overseas.
One mining industry source familiar with the copper exploration program said Rio was hoping the Southern Gobi copper-gold belt in Mongolia, which contains its massive Oyu Tolgoi mine, extended into Inner Mongolia in China.
Also speaking at China Mining, an annual gathering of mining executives, government officials and equipment manufacturers in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, Rio’s exploration director for Australasia, John Kilroe, said on Thursday the company would welcome further exploration partnerships in China.
Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Kirsten Donovan