LONDON/SYDNEY, May 26 (Reuters) - Final bids for Anglo American's metallurgical coal mines in Australia, valued at up to $1.5 billion, must be submitted by June 6, three sources close to the matter said on Thursday.
Anglo American, like its peers, is selling off prized assets after a prolonged commodities rout has left it with high levels of debt. It aims to sell between $3 billion and $4 billion of assets this year.
Analysts said the appeal of its two metallurgical or coking coal mines in Australia could have increased after one operation delivered coal months ahead of schedule.
Private equity firm Apollo has teamed up with Pennsylvania coal exporter Xcoal Energy & Resources, founded by Ernie Thrasher and Chris Cline, the billionaire coal entrepreneur often dubbed the King of Coal, and have made it through to the second round of bidding, according to the sources.
BHP is also through to the second round and a likely frontrunner, although the sources said Japanese steelmakers reliant on coking coal could raise competition concerns as BHP already dominates.
Other interested parties could include Indian, Japanese and America suitors, the sources said, declining to be specific.
"There are lots of interested parties...everybody in the world looked at these assets," one said.
BHP declined to comment. Anglo American also said it could not comment on the sale process.
Metallurgical or coking coal is used in steelmaking. Some industry players have expressed caution at the future of coking coal assets given their increasing unpopularity from an environmental stance and their exposure to the troubled steelmaking industry.
But the mining and steel sectors say coal remains the cheapest solution and has a long future yet. (Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)