Trying to block a hostile bid from HudBay Minerals Inc., Augusta Resource Corp.'s chief executive officer said another suitor has expressed interest in his company's large copper project in Arizona.
Vancouver-based Augusta said there are now 11 interested parties, including mining companies and financial entities that have signed confidentiality agreements, up from nine in March.
Five have visited the company's Rosemont project, a mineral deposit located in a national forest that when developed would be the third-largest copper mine in the United States.
Augusta won some extra time to find a white knight to counter HudBay's $470-million all-stock bid late last week when Canadian provincial regulators issued an order saying it would not kill the Vancouver company's so-called poison pill, or mechanisms to stop HudBay from acquiring additional shares, until mid-July.
Toronto-based HudBay, a medium-sized metal producer seeking growth, already controls 16 per cent of Augusta. On Monday, the mining company extended its bid by 10 days to mid-May and could continue extending its bid until the poison pill is squashed.
A more pressing issue is whether Augusta will get the permits needed to start building Rosemont this year.
Augusta has already won preliminary support from one of the U.S. federal agencies that must okay the project. Augusta has told investors that it expects to receive final approvals in the second quarter.
But last week, the U.S. Forest Service said it needed more time to respond to public objections, a step that must be completed before the government body issues its decision.
"The complexity of the content of the objections will require additional time to thoroughly review and give full and deliberate considerations to the issues raised," the Forest Service said in a statement announcing the delay last week.
Augusta CEO Gil Clausen said his company has "no basis to change our guidance today."
"It looks like it is still doable in the second quarter but we want to see what the Forest Service says in terms of final timing before we issue any guidance revision," he said in an interview.
The agency said it will provide an update on its progress and the timing for its final approval by the end of the month. That could affect approvals from other agencies.