* Share price falls 1.6 percent
* Analysts say any impact very long term
(Adds U.S. government comment, updates share reaction)
By Barbara Lewis
LONDON, Dec 16 Chile's Antofagasta said
it was considering a legal challenge to a refusal by U.S.
authorities to renew mineral leases in Minnesota, a rejection
analysts and lawyers said could be overturned after
President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Antofagasta said on Friday the renewal of two long-held
leases in the Iron Range region of Minnesota, where its unit
Twin Metals is developing a proposal for underground
copper-nickel mining, had been refused.
It said it was assessing the impact and would "continue to
pursue legal avenues to protect its contractual mineral rights".
The leases were issued by the federal government in 1966
with a right of unlimited, successive 10-year renewals.
Twin Metals filed the current lease renewal application in
mid-2013 after the leases had been twice.
In a separate statement, Twin Metals said it was "greatly
disappointed" by the refusals from the Bureau of Land Management
and the U.S. Forest Service.
"If allowed to stand, the BLM-USFS actions will have a
devastating impact on the future economy of the Iron Range and
all of Northeast Minnesota, eliminating the promise of thousands
of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the
region," it said.
A U.S. government statement said the administration of
current President Barack Obama was acting to protect a
wilderness area and the Forest Service had cited a potential
risk of environmental contamination.
"This is the right action to take to avoid irrevocably
damaging this watershed and its recreation-based economy, while
also taking the time and space to review whether to further
protect the area from all new mining," U.S. Secretary of the
Interior Sally Jewell said in the statement.
Antofagasta shares fell nearly 2 percent in London trade,
while the wider sector was 0.7 percent lower.
Analysts said any real impact was long term and in any case
predicted the company would eventually get the permits.
"As a proposed underground operation, the environmental
impact should be relatively small, so I would imagine that the
company is relatively confident of regaining the licences on
appeal," Edward Sterck of BMO Capital Markets said.
Mining stocks rallied after Trump's election in November,
buoyed by his pledges to invest in infrastructure and revive
U.S. manufacturing and jobs.
"The expectation is he will be more open to developing
(U.S.) resources," Laurent Ruessmann, a partner at Fieldfisher
law firm said. "The question is whether he will do it in a
(Additional reporting by Rahul B. in Bengaluru and Timothy
Gardner in Washington, editing by David Evans and Susan Fenton)