Canada's First Quantum may team-up with Rio Tinto to develop Peru copper mine

LONDON (Reuters) - Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals Ltd is looking for strategic partners to develop new copper projects and a joint venture with Rio Tinto in Peru could be on the cards, First Quantum’s chief executive officer said on Wednesday.

First Quantum Minerals Chairman, CEO and Director Philip Pascall looks on during their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: BUSINESS)

“That is what we are going to explore and it just depends on what kind of partner we get,” First Quantum CEO Philip Pascall said on the sidelines of a conference in London, referring to the company’s plans to find strategic partners.

“There are a number of different potential players, not necessarily mining companies,” he added.

When asked if First Quantum could partner with Rio to develop a copper mine in Peru, Pascall said that would be one of the options.

A Rio spokesman declined to comment.

First Quantum owns the Haquira deposit in southern Peru and Rio owns the La Granja porphyry copper project in the South American country.

Pascall said new copper mines generally require between $3 billion and $4 billion to develop as grades have declined in recent years necessitating higher mining volumes.

First Quantum is heavily indebted, carrying a $7.6 billion net debt at the end of its third quarter, up 24% from a year ago, according to the company’s latest financial statements.

It began commercial production in September at the Cobre Panama mine where Pascall said he was looking for a partner to replace Korea Resources Corp, which owns 10%.

(This story corrects spelling of mine name in final paragraph)

Reporting by Zandi Shabalala in London; additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in London; writing by Jeff Lewis in Toronto; Editing by Kirsten Donovan