Fin24

Codelco, Anglo dispute escalates

2012-01-10 22:00

London/Santiago - Copper producer Codelco has asked a Chilean court to enforce its disputed option to buy a 49% stake in the prized south Chilean assets of Anglo American [JSE:AGL] suing the global miner and claiming damages for breach of contract.

The long-expected move is the latest escalation in an increasingly bitter legal row between the two mining powerhouses. It comes just months after Codelco’s announcement that it planned to exercise the long-standing option was followed by a surprise stake sale by Anglo to Japan’s Mitsubishi.

Anglo says the sale of a 24.5% stake in the Anglo American Sur assets to Mitsubishi in November halved Codelco’s option to buy a 49% stake in the properties. Codelco, which viewed the pre-emptive move as a snub, disputes that.

Codelco said on January 2 - the day the option theoretically came into force - that it exercised its option to buy a 49 percent stake in Anglo’s key properties for an estimated price of around $6bn.

Anglo, which is separately suing Codelco for breach of contract, said it was not obliged to sell any shares in Anglo American Sur to Codelco.

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said Tuesday’s lawsuit requested damages from Anglo for breach of contract, including the payment of dividends from the shares Codelco says it has a right to own.

Codelco also said it had begun proceedings to request the disclosure of the full details of Anglo’s sale deal with Mitsubishi, with the aim of exploring further legal action.

“We regret that Codelco has been forced to take legal action. However, this is the only possible option when a counter party is acting erratically and in clear violation of the contracts,” Diego Hernandez, Chief Executive of Codelco, said.

“Anglo American’s actions severely compromise the interests of its shareholders in the short and medium term.”  Anglo was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Anglo’s properties in southern Chile include the flagship expansion project Los Bronces, where Anglo has invested around$2.8bn; the El Soldado mine; the Chagres smelter; and the Los Sulfatos and San Enrique Monolito exploration projects.