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Rio Tinto’s copper leaching technology venture Nuton has acquired a 16.5% stake in Canadian exploration company Regulus Resources for $15m.

Under the arm’s length non-brokered private placement financing, Nuton purchased 20.06 million common shares of Regulus, at C$1.02 apiece.

In a statement, Rio Tinto said: “Upon completion of the Financing, Nuton acquired beneficial ownership and control over 20,058,974 Common Shares representing 16.1% of the issued and outstanding Common Shares on completion on a non-diluted basis.”

Nuton also signed a collaboration agreement with Regulus whereby the former gets certain investor rights.

This includes enabling Nuton to maintain its equity holding in Regulus if it continues to have a stake of more than 10%.

Nuton will also nominate a director to the Regulus board. In addition, the duo will set up a joint venture advisory committee to share skills, exploration concepts and development opportunities at the Regulus Resources’ AntaKori project in Peru.

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The financing from Nuton will be used by Regulus to develop the AntaKori copper-gold project as well as for general corporate purposes.

In its statement, Rio Tinto further noted: “The Company has granted exclusivity to Nuton in the area of novel, patented or trade secret leaching technologies, for a period of one year after the delivery of metallurgical samples from AntaKori to Nuton for testing.

“For a one-year period, Nuton has agreed to not sell any share of Regulus, acquire greater than a 19.9% interest in the company and vote its common shares in favour of each director nominated by the company.”

The mining giant said Nuton bought Regulus’ common shares for the purpose of investment.