Rio Tinto venture Nuton has reached a binding deal to spend a further $30m to purchase McEwen Copper shares.

McEwen Copper is a unit of Canadian gold and silver producer McEwen Mining.

Valuing McEwen Copper at nearly $550m, the deal will be executed in two parts.

The first part involves the private placement of 350,000 McEwen Copper common shares while the second includes the acquisition of McEwen Mining-owned 1.2 million common shares in a secondary sale.

McEwen Copper CEO Rob McEwen said: “Together, we are exploring new technologies that save energy, water, time and capital in the pursuit of delivering green copper to Argentina and the world, a product that will contribute to the electrification of transportation and the protection of our atmosphere.”

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Upon deal completion, which is expected by 10 March 2023, Nuton will have a 14.2% stake in McEwen Copper while McEwen Mining will hold a 51.9% interest.

McEwen Copper is expected to secure proceeds of $6.5m from the subscription and acquisition while McEwen Mining will get $23.5m.

The placement proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes.

It will also be utilised to enhance the development of the Los Azules copper project in San Juan, Argentina. 

McEwen Copper and some of its affiliates also signed the new Nuton collaboration agreement, as well as copper cathodes and concentrates, purchase rights agreement (CCCPRA).

Under the new Nuton collaboration agreement, Nuton’s exclusivity over novel, trade secret, or patented copper heap leach technologies has been extended until 10 August 2024.

It also allows Nuton to offer local currency funding for the Los Azules project development, among others.

The CCCPRA offers an option to enable Nuton to acquire a percentage of the copper products produced from the Los Azules project that is equal to their equity ownership percentage in McEwen Copper.

Last September, McEwen Copper signed an agreement to make Rio Tinto a majority joint venture partner in the Elder Creek project in Nevada.