LIMA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - More than 20 companies have expressed an interest in bidding on the $2 billion Peruvian copper project Michiquillay in an auction due to take place on Dec. 20, the Peruvian government said on Monday.
The auction date had been pushed back from the originally scheduled Nov. 15, state bidding agency Proinversion said in a statement. It said it had given more time for companies to sign up to take part, given the volume of interest.
Michiquillay is the first sizable mineral deposit to be offered up in a public auction in more than a decade in Peru, the world's second biggest copper producer. The timing - amid rising copper prices - should help make the auction competitive.
Proinversion did not name the companies that have expressed interest in Michiquillay, but Southern Copper Corp and Buenaventura told Reuters in September that they were both evaluating bids.
Companies have until November 2 to sign up for the auction.
London-listed miner Anglo American Plc had previously been awarded the rights to develop Michiquillay but it returned its contract to Peru in late 2014 due to capital constraints. The company had estimated that the project would produce some 200,000 tonnes of copper per year once developed.
Proinversion said that the date extension for the auction would give the government more time to talk with local communities surrounding the project. So far, seven information sessions with communities have been held, it added.
Michiquillay is located at an altitude of nearly 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) in the northern Peruvian region of Cajamarca.
In 2011, protests by peasants worried about the environmental impacts of mining in Cajamarca derailed Newmont Mining Corp's plan for a $5 billion gold project. (Reporting By Mitra Taj, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)