China’s Hebei Iron and Steel Group is in talks with Atlas Iron for a stake in a magnetite mine in Western Australia, state media reports.

The Chinese mill is eyeing the Ridley project, which is expected to yield 15Mt/y of ore over the next 35 years, to bolster its iron ore supplies, the China Daily said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The newspaper did not specify how big a stake Hebei Iron was seeking.

It has expressed interest in the mine now that Atlas is merging with Aurox and looking for a partner to develop the project, it added.

The merger is expected to create a company with a combined output of 26Mt/y of iron ore by 2014, it said.

Chinese steelmakers have been keen to purchase overseas iron ore resources to secure supply and reduce dependence on the world’s three big miners, Brazil’s Vale, and Anglo-Australian groups BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.