Minmetals is Glencore’s preferred bidder for the Las Bambas copper project in Peru, Ivan Glasenberg said during a conference call on Tuesday March 4.

Speaking during Glencore’s preliminary results presentation, Glasenberg confirmed that the Chinese company was the frontrunner and that it is now a matter of agreeing a price.

Glencore head of copper Telis Mistakidis declined to comment on exactly what price the trader is hoping for, but Glasenberg added that under its agreement with the Chinese ministry of commerce (Mofcom), Glencore can choose not to sell if the right price cannot be agreed.

“It’s up to us what we’re prepared to sell it at. We did run a tender process and there were two Chinese bidders,” Glasenberg said.

“We went with our preferred bidder, which is Minmetals. It’s not just a price discussion. We’ve derisked as time went on and we’ve done a lot of work on the asset,” he added.

A further $2.4 billion will be spent on the asset going forward, Glasenberg said, and the asset should be producing by mid-2015.

In October 2013, Metal Bulletin reported that Minmetals had entered the first round of talks with Glencore on buying Las Bambas.

At the time, Gu Liangmin, md of the company’s copper division, said that Minmetals would proceed cautiously, and had no deadline on the deal.

The project had also drawn interest from Chinese companies including Chinalco, Jiangxi Copper, and Citic Resources, and there was also speculation that the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission would select a company to represent China on the deal.

However, Glasenberg played down the suggestion that the Chinese authorities would restrict competition in this way.

Under its agreement with Mofcom, if Glencore does not enter a binding agreement on Las Bambas by September 30 this year or does not conclude the transfer of ownership interest by June next year, it must sell its interest via auction in any one of the Tampakan, Frieda River, El Pachón or Alumbrera projects.

In November 2013, Glencore Xstrata entered a deal to sell 80% of Frieda River in Papua New Guinea to PanAust and in January this year, it said it was looking to sell its majority stake in Tampakan in the Philippines.

Claire Hack
Twitter: @clairehack_mb