Pebble partner looks to sell stake

Posted: Monday, April 25, 2011

One half of the Pebble Limited Partnership is looking to sell.

The CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. told Bloomberg News March 8 it expects to divest its 50 percent stake in the Pebble mine prospect "anytime later this year or next year."

"I could see it being either one of the diversified majors singly or a partnership of a major mining company and perhaps an Asian metals trading-slash-smelting company, like a Mitsubishi, Mitsui or Sumitomo, or even one of the Chinese groups," Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen told Bloomberg.

Since the Feb. 23 release of a preliminary assessment of Pebble's value conducted for Northern Dynasty that ruffled feathers with partner Anglo American Plc of London, the Vancouver-based junior mining company has been on an aggressive sales push touting the prospect.

At the BMO Capital Markets 2011 Global Metals & Mining Conference in Hollywood, Fla., Northern Dynasty executive chairman Robert Dickinson said he expected the Pebble prospect to attract an array of suitors.

"Given the state of the current industry, the competition in the industry and the commodity market conditions we believe that going forward there will be competitive interest in Pebble from a broad range of potential acquirers," said Dickinson, according to a report in Mining News.

Thiessen also mentioned Rio Tinto as a potential buyer for its Pebble stake. Rio Tinto already owns 19.9 percent of Northern Dynasty, giving it just less than a 10 percent stake in Pebble. Rio Tinto also owns Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, which supplies 20 percent of the nation's copper and is a deposit similar to Pebble's geology.

Anglo American, which has paid $325 million in expenses at Pebble since becoming a 50 percent partner in 2007 and plans to spend another $91 million in 2011, was not pleased at the timing of Northern Dynasty's release or the information it included. Anglo American is obliged to spend between $1.425 billion and $1.5 billion to secure its 50 percent ownership in the claim.

The Pebble Partnership has not yet released its environmental baseline document based on more than six years of intensive research at the prospect, nor its official prefeasibility study that

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