The Zijin Mining Group has launched a proposal to increase its share in Norton Gold Fields from 16.98% to 50.1% in a significant takeover bid for the mid-tier Australian producer.

Under the indicative, non-binding and conditional proposal, all Norton shareholders would receive $0.27 per share. It is now subject to a number of conditions and due diligence investigations as well as approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board. Norton has established an independent sub-committee to evaluate the proposal and progress discussions.

Norton holds mining and exploration leases in Western Australia’s goldfields, with tenements spanning and area of 693sqkm. The company’s flagship 5.96 million ounce Paddington operation is near the established support infrastructure of the historical mining centre of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

In the 2010-11 financial year, Norton achieved record production of 152,554 ounces from its open cut and underground operations at Paddington and processed at its 3.3 million tonnes/annum Paddington mill.

The company’s managing director Andrè Labuschagne says the takeover will strengthen Norton’s ability to continue with its exciting exploration portfolio of more than 120 identified prospects to sustain production growth beyond Paddington’s current 10-year mine life.

China-based Zijin is an international gold and base metals explorer. It opened one of the first national mining parks to be approved by the Chinese government in Fujian late last year. The park consists of seven areas including a sightseeing platform, recreation and leisure areas and camping ground.

Located in Zijinshan, the area is known for abundant gold and copper resources, as well as historical and cultural resources. Since the early 1990s, Zijin Mining has successfully explored the area, with many significant gold and copper discoveries. Its Zijinshan gold and copper mine is now the largest in China with the lowest grade of ore feed and highest economic benefit.

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