Congo state miner submits offer for Freeport's Tenke copper project

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company Gecamines said on Wednesday it has submitted an offer to buy Freeport McMoRan Inc’s majority stake in the Tenke copper project. Freeport agreed in May to sell its 56 percent stake in Tenke, one of the world’s largest copper mines, to China Molybdenum Co Ltd (CMOC) for $2.65 billion.

Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine 110 km (68 miles) northwest of Lubumbashi in Congo's copper-producing south, owned by miner Freeport McMoRan, Lundin Mining and state mining company Gecamines, January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jonny Hogg

Toronto-based Lundin Mining, which holds a 24 percent stake, has until Sept. 15 to exercise its right of first offer before any deal goes through.

Gecamines, which controls the remaining 20 percent, and Congolese authorities have objected to the sale, which they were not informed of beforehand.

Congo’s mines minister said in May that he suspected Freeport was hiding its true value.

Freeport did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

It has previously said the transaction was conducted transparently and in accordance with all applicable laws.

“For us, it’s a matter of setting up a new joint venture with new partners to facilitate the exit of Freeport and reassure the state and the workers,” Gecamines’ interim director-general Jacques Kamenga told Reuters.

He added that Gecamines had received “serious proposals from potential industrial and financial partners”. He did not specify who but said CMOC’s participation was not ruled out.

Freeport has not acknowledged that Gecamines has a right of first offer for Tenke.

Congo, Africa’s top copper exporter, mined 995,805 tonnes of the metal in 2015, but output dropped nearly 14 percent in the first half of this year as producers cut back due to low prices.

Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Dale Hudson