Rio Tinto to Invest $100 Million in Kazakh Copper Project

Rio Tinto Group is planning to invest about $100 million to explore for copper in northern Kazakhstan as the world’s third-biggest mining company seeks to reserves of the metal used in electronics and pipes.

Rio Tinto will fully fund the exploration work, which may start this year, Chris Welton, general manager for exploration in Central Asia, told reporters today in the capital, Astana. The company formed a 50-50 venture last year with Tau-Ken Samruk, a mining unit of Kazakhstan’s wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, to tap the country’s mineral resources.

Rio Tinto and Tau-Ken Samruk are close to signing a final agreement on exploration prospects in the Kostanai region in northern Kazakhstan, said Aibek Izhanov, the state-controlled unit’s chief geologist.

If exploration is successful, construction will probably cost about $700 million to $1 billion, based on the average capital costs to build a world-class large copper-mine, Welton said. Tau-Ken Samruk will be expected to fund its share of the construction costs, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Svetlana Antoncheva in Astana, Kazakhstan at santoncheva1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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