Santiago – Anglo American is jeopardizing its future in Chile by trying to prevent state-owned copper giant Corporacion Nacional del Cobre from acquiring a 49 percent stake in its AAS subsidiary, Codelco's CEO said.
"I don't think they're doing a good job defending their shareholders' interests, but instead what they're really doing is jeopardizing the future of their investments here," Diego Hernandez, chief executive officer of the Santiago-based company, the world's largest copper producer, said in a meeting Thursday with foreign correspondents.
Anglo American, a London-based mining conglomerate, has operated since 1980 in Chile, where it employs 10,000 workers and has invested a total of $6.5 billion.
In 2010, it produced 623,295 tons of fine copper in Chile and posted $2.3 billion in net earnings after taxes.
The dispute between Codelco and Anglo American erupted on Nov. 9 when Anglo announced it had sold a 24.5 percent stake in its Chilean copper unit, Anglo American Sur, to Japan's Mitsubishi for $5.4 billion.
Codelco had announced in October its intention to acquire a 49 percent stake in AAS, including the Los Bronces and El Soldado mines and the Chagres smelter, by exercising a long-standing option, a plan Anglo moved to block with the share sale to Mitsubishi.
While Anglo says the Chilean copper giant now can only aspire to the other 24.5 percent minority stake in the unit, Codelco is adamant that it has the right to the full 49 percent.
"Our position is that Anglo American was not allowed to sell the AAS stake once the process of exercising the option began" in July, Hernandez said, adding that "that's how we understand it" after reading through the entire contract.
This week, a Chilean court, at Codelco's request, issued an injunction blocking Anglo from selling more stakes in AAS.
Meanwhile, the president of Anglo American's Chilean operations, Miguel Angel Duran, in an interview published Thursday by the daily La Tercera, invited Codelco to sit down and "talk before taking any further legal action."
Hernandez also told the correspondents he is open to pursuing a negotiated solution.
He added that Anglo American could take the case to international arbitration, although in his opinion the contract was signed in accordance with Chilean law and therefore the dispute "can only be heard in Chilean courts."
The CEO said there is no reason for the dispute to affect Codelco's business relations with Anglo American and the Mitsubishi conglomerate.
Referring to possible legal action against the Japanese company, the executive said Codelco has no reason to take such a step "at this time" but that it would assess all of its options.
On Wednesday, the attorney representing Codelco in this matter, Carlos Concha, told Efe that the Chilean mining company is preparing three lawsuits, two civil suits and a criminal complaint, against Anglo American and Mitsubishi.
Hernandez also told reporters Codelco has received the "support and understanding" of other foreign companies in Chile and ruled out the possibility that a court battle could affect foreign investment or the image of Codelco or the Chilean government abroad.