The 50:50 owned joint venture will have an immediate priority to pursue mineral targets in the Asian country that are identified under a technical collaboration agreement signed by the parties in last November. The November 2017 agreement was signed to form a collaborative partnership in mineral exploration.

China Minmetals president Guo Wenqing said: “The collaboration is very significant to Minmetals.

“Rio Tinto has rich prospecting experience and great discoveries worldwide, while Minmetals has solid technical expertise and extensive experience – the two strong partners will drive breakthroughs, pioneer progress, and promote the exchanges and collaboration of the global resource industry.”

Rio Tinto and Minmetals are likely to extend their future collaboration to exploration of global resources.

Rio Tinto CEO J-S Jacques said: “The formalisation of the exploration joint venture is an important milestone in our growing partnership with China and Minmetals, who is an increasingly important player in the global mining industry.

“Our complementary strengths in exploration put us in the best possible position to find metals and minerals essential to human progress.”

The joint venture creation will be subject to regulatory approvals, said Rio Tinto.

As per the terms agreed, each partner will make an initial contribution of RMB35m ($5.5m) within nearly six months of joint venture creation. Any additional capital contributions will be based on unanimous approval of the parties and associated agreed target areas, revealed Rio Tinto.

Considered to be China’s biggest metal ore mining company, China Minmetals was formed by the recombination of the former China Minmetals and the MCC Group. The Chinese firm owns mines at its home country and also in Australia, South America, Africa and other regions in Asia.

China Minmetals holds major reserves of copper, zinc, nickel, tungsten, antimony and bismuth.