Rio Tinto has completed its previously announced acquisition of PanAmerican Silver’s stake in Agua de la Falda, which holds exploration tenements in Chile’s prospective Atacama region.

The Anglo-Australian mining company also signed a joint venture with Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco) to explore and potentially develop its assets in the Atacama region.

In August this year, Rio Tinto signed an agreement to acquire PanAmerican Silver’s 57.74% stake in Agua de la Falda for a total of $45m and royalties, while Codelco owns the remaining 42.26% stake.

Building on the acquisition, Rio Tinto has formed a new joint venture with Codelco, known as Nuevo Cobre (New Copper) to jointly undertake exploration at Agua de la Falda.

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm said: “Chile is one of the most important sources of the copper and other critical minerals the world needs to deliver the energy transition and achieve net zero.

“With this partnership, we are bringing together our complementary experience and capabilities. Codelco’s local knowledge and expertise is second to none and we have a global track record in exploration. I am very much looking forward to getting our work on the ground started.”

Agua de la Falda property was previously explored for precious metals with minimal modern exploration for copper.

Rio Tinto Exploration analysis shows that the property is prospective for new copper discoveries, which will now be the focus of the joint venture.

Furthermore, the JV partnership for Agua de la Falda builds on an underground mining collaboration agreement between Rio Tinto and Codelco, signed in October last year.

The collaboration agreement is focused on advancing technology to improve safety, productivity and environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes in underground mining.

Codelco chairman Maximo Pacheco said: “This is an unbeatable opportunity for Codelco and Rio Tinto to join our knowledge, experience, strengths and capabilities to accelerate exploration and development of these assets to contribute the copper that the world needs for its energy transition.

“We are very pleased to formalise this partnership with Rio Tinto and acknowledge our mutual commitment to following the best standards of health, safety, community relations and care for the environment.”