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- Inmet Mining Corp. will move ahead with its Petaquilla copper project in Panama at least through the permitting phase, and then will make a final construction decision based on metals prices at the time, the company's chief operating officer said Wednesday.

"We believe... it is appropriate to advance Petaquilla, but we remain disciplined in our approach, and we'll find the right balance between advancing the project and preserving our cash reserve," Jochen Tilk said on a conference call.

He said it should take about two years to get the project through the permitting phase.

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Inmet is in the process of wrapping up an acquisition of a majority stake in the project through its $350-million takeover of Petaquilla Copper Ltd.

The takeover will give Inmet a 74 per cent stake in the project. The other 26 per cent stake is held by Teck Cominco Ltd., which under an agreement, can maintain the stake by making a decision to fund the project. If not, it must sell the stake back to Inmet.

Inmet officials said Inmet will have funded about $50-million (U.S.) of the project by early November, at which point Teck will have to make a decision on whether to go ahead.

If Teck does not do so, Inmet will eventually find another partner with an eye to keeping at least a 50 per cent stake in the project, they said.

The Petaquilla project is expected to yield 223,000 tonnes of copper and 87,000 ounces of gold annually over the first 10 years of its 23-year mine life. Project costs have previously been estimated at $3.5-billion, but Inmet expects to release an updated estimate early next year.

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