Codelco will have the first option on Enami's stake but it is likely to face competing bids from other companies, including BHP, according to a Mining and Energy Ministry source, reported BNAmericas.
Ecuador's finances have been hard hit by both the drop in the price of oil, its main export, and the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the country unable to finance its share of project costs going forward.
With the project at the advanced exploration stage, it is expected to progress to pre-feasibility in 2023. Some US$250 million is due to be spent on the project over the next four years to bring it to a construction decision, which could see Llurimagua potentially produce 210,000 tonnes per year of copper for 27 years.
The next few months could be interesting ones for BHP in Ecuador.
In addition to a potential auction for a 51% stake in Llurimagua, the company's standstill agreement with SolGold, which also covers Cornerstone Capital Resources (which owns 15% of the subsidiary which holds the Cascabel copper-gold project) expires in October, which would allow it to make a bid for either company.