HIGHLANDS Pacific has regained full ownership of a prospective copper-gold tenement in the Star Mountains area of Papua New Guinea following the expiry of a decade old option agreement with Glencore Xstrata subsidiary Xstrata Frieda River.

Following the Nong River option expiry date of 14 April 2014, Highlands informed shareholders in a statement that exploration tenement 1312, located 20 kilometres north of Ok Tedi, would now be wholly under its control.

The Nong River licence (EL1312) had been part of an agreement originally entered into with Noranda Inc, which is now Glencore.

Glencore could have secured a 72% interest in EL1312 had it exercised its option and delivered a detailed feasibility study by early 2019.

In 2009, Highlands exercised its option to accelerate the exploration of the Nong River licence by sole funding an exploration program.

During this sole funding period, Highlands spent US$25 million and discovered what it believes to be a new copper-gold-porphyry province.

The expiry of the option over EL1312 will now allow Highlands to further advance joint venture and farm‐in discussions with international mining companies interested in the four copper‐gold porphyry tenements.

“On the basis that the Nong River option has now expired, Highlands will be free to deal with EL1312 earlier than if we had to wait for the PanAust Glencore agreement to be completed on Frieda River,” Highlands managing director John Gooding said. “We have already been in discussions with potential joint venture partners for the next stage of exploration in the Star Mountains area and removing the option is a huge positive and allows us to move quickly forward.”

Commenting on Glencore’s recently inked agreement to sell its Las Bambas copper project in Peru, Mr Gooding said the deal was an important step in the completion of the Highlands-PanAust-Glencore agreements relating to the Frieda River project.