Chile orders mining giant Anglo to halt share sales

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An appeals court in Chile on Tuesday unanimously ruled that mining giant Anglo American must stop selling shares of its Chilean subsidiary AAS until a lawsuit challenging the sale is resolved.

Chile's state-owned mining giant Codelco filed a suit Monday to guarantee its right to purchase a 49-percent stake in the shares of Anglo American Sur.

It acted after Anglo American announced last week that it had sold a 24.5-percent stake in Chilean copper activities to Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation for $5.39 billion (3.89 billion euros).

The move presumably reduces the largest stake of AAS that Codelco, the world's top copper producer, can buy to 24.5 percent.

According to a 1978 contract, Codelco has the option every three years to buy up to 49 percent of AAS -- and the Chilean mining giant in October announced plans to do that in January 2012.

"Anglo American was forbidden from selling shares in Anglo American Sur while the legal procedure is being considered, which is what Codelco had asked for to protect its right to buy," Codelco attorney Pedro Pablo Gutierrez told reporters after the court ruling.

Gutierrez said that unnamed officials at Anglo American said if they wanted they could sell the remaining AAS shares, "and Codelco's right to buy would turn into something empty and without value," he said.

AAS properties in Chile include the Los Bronces and El Soldado copper mines, and the Chagres copper smelter.

© 2011 AFP

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