BP close to selling Australian mine stake

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The Independent Online
BRITISH PETROLEUM, the debt-laden oil giant, is close to selling its 49 per cent stake in one of the world's biggest gold, copper and uranium mines for an estimated Adollars 600m (pounds 220m).

BP's interest in Olympic Dam in Australia has been for sale for at least a year. However, the company said yesterday that it was in advanced negotiations for the disposal. A deal could be announced within weeks.

Olympic Dam is one of BP's few remaining interests in mining following the pounds 2.4bn disposal of its minerals business to RTZ Corporation in 1989. Other interests still owned by BP include coal-mining businesses in Indonesia and South Africa.

Olympic Dam has long been regarded as an important part of BP's massive disposal programme. The company is planning to raise up to pounds 1bn this year to reduce an pounds 8bn debt mountain. Assets sold so far this year include the group's 57 per cent interest in BP Canada for Cdollars 375m (pounds 160m) and several oil and gas interests in Egypt and Africa for an undisclosed sum.

Analysts say potential buyers of the mine include RTZ, Royal Dutch/Shell and Anglo American, the South African group. However Western Mining, which owns 51 per cent of the mine, has first right of refusal on any sale. Western Mining is believed to have prevented BP selling the stake to RTZ for Adollars 800m.

In the year to 30 June, Olympic Dam produced 1,369 tonnes of uranium oxide, 62,082 tonnes of refined copper, 22,851 ounces of gold and 467,192 ounces of silver.