OZ Minerals Said Among Final Bidders for Rio’s Northparkes Mine

OZ Minerals Ltd., Australia’s third-biggest copper producer, is among companies that made final bids for Rio Tinto Group’s Northparkes mine in Australia, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Final offers for Rio Tinto’s 80 percent of the copper and gold mine were made at the end of last month, and at least two bidders are now holding talks with Rio Tinto over the purchase, said two people, asking not to be identified as the information is private. A decision on a preferred bidder may be made as soon as this month, one person said.

Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., which has the remaining 20 percent stake, has the right to match any bid, the people said. Macquarie Group Ltd. is helping the world’s second-largest mining company find a buyer for the stake, which Citigroup Inc. valued at about $800 million in a February report.

Rio Tinto is seeking to offload assets including its aluminum operations in Australia and a Canadian iron ore division as Chief Executive Office Sam Walsh cuts costs. The London-based company, which Deutsche Bank AG estimates may reap about $10 billion from the asset sales, said last month that it decided to keep its diamond business after failing to find a buyer.

Rachel Eaves, a spokeswoman for OZ Minerals, and Bruce Tobin, a spokesman for Rio Tinto both declined to comment on the sale of Northparkes.

KKR, Carlyle

The mine, at which Rio Tinto also operates a training center for underground mining, mined 21,800 metric tons of copper in the six months through June, a 7 percent decrease from last year. Rio Tinto considered selling Northparkes in 2009 and held onto the mine after copper and gold prices rose.

Buyout firms KKR & Co. and Carlyle Group LP, which considered bidding for the stake in Northparkes, are no longer vying for the assets, two other people said.

Melbourne-based OZ Minerals operates the Prominent Hill mine in South Australia state and is building the A$3 billion ($2.8 billion) Carrapateena project it acquired in 2011. In April, it cut its output target by 14 percent following a land slip at the mine.

OZ Minerals is the largest shareholder in Perth-based gold and copper explorer Sandfire Resources NL, holding 19.2 percent of the A$903 million company, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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