Anglo American's shareholders are very supportive of the company in its legal battle against copper producing giant Codelco in Chile over its assets in the country's south, Chief Executive Cynthia Carroll said on Tuesday.

Anglo American surprised markets with the pre-emptive sale of a 24.5 percent stake in its southern Chilean properties in November to Mitsubishi, weeks after world No.1 copper producer Codelco announced it planned to exercise a long-standing option to buy a 49 percent stake.

The two sides have since been embroiled in a legal spat that some analysts fear could hurt the miner's operations in the country and prove a damaging distraction for Anglo American's management.

We are very confident about our legal position. We have acted within our rights and we are in no doubt about that, Cynthia Carroll said in a telephone interview on the sidelines of a mining industry gathering.

We are supported by our shareholders. They understand it is not going to be easy, but we are there for the long haul.

Carroll declined to comment on the impact of the planned takeover of rival miner Xstrata by commodities trader Glencore , a tie-up to create a powerhouse which analysts say could target Anglo American.

Asked about what the deal could mean for the valuations of mining companies and acquisition opportunities, Carroll said Anglo would be sticking to its plan of developing its pipeline of prime growth projects.

Is there more and more interest in acquisitions? No question about it, she told Reuters.

Are prices continuing to rise with respect to value of those assets? I think they are and that was demonstrated in the acquisition on the part of Mitsubishi of (a stake in) our assets in Chile.

(Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Ed Stoddard)