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July 3 (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's Chilean copper mine Candelaria has attracted the interest of Magris Resources, the private equity firm founded by former Barrick Gold Corp chief executive Aaron Regent, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.
It is an open secret that Freeport is running a sale process for Candelaria and the mine has been on the market for some time, a source who has been involved in the process told Reuters.
Mining giant Freeport is considering asset sales as part of its plan to reduce its $20.9 billion debt load after it surprised the market in late 2012 with its move into the U.S. energy market with a $9 billion purchase of both Plains Exploration & Production Co and McMoRan Exploration Co.
The company, which hopes to significantly reduce its debt by the end of 2016, agreed in May to sell $3.1 billion worth of oil assets to Encana Corp.
Toronto-based Magris was interested in the Glencore Xstrata's Las Bambas copper mine in Peru last year, Reuters reported at the time, but the mine ultimately went to a Chinese consortium for $6 billion.
Candelaria and the nearby Ojos del Salado mine together produced 87 million pounds of copper in the first quarter, about 9 percent of total copper production at Freeport's mines.
Freeport owns 80 percent of Candelaria, and affiliates of Japan's Sumitomo Corp hold the balance.
Freeport spokesman Eric Kinneberg said the company does not comment on rumors. Magris was not immediately available to comment. (Reporting by Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Marguerita Choy)