Aluminum Corp. of China (Chinalco) is still searching for opportunities to invest in nonferrous metal mining resources in Western Australia, Caijing reported on Thursday, citing Chinalco's CEO Xiong Weiping who also raised the possibility of cooperation with Rio Tinto.

Xiong, who attended the Sino-Australian Cooperation - Investment in Western Australian Mining Resources and Basic Facilities symposium on Thursday, refused to comment on the arrest of four staff members of Rio Tinto in China for suspected theft of Chinese state secrets.

He indicated, however, that Chinalco is willing to explore the possibility of further cooperation with Rio Tinto.

This remark, according to Caijing, shows a change in Chinalco's attitude towards Rio Tinto.

Australian mining giant Rio Tinto walked away from a proposed $19.5 billion deal with Chinalco in June, dealing a blow to China's ambitions to buy access to raw materials crucial for its economic growth.

Rio said it would instead obtain financing by means of share allocation and a joint venture with BHP Billiton .

Xiong said that he was extremely disappointed at this.

Chinalco later participated in Rio's share allocation, and is still the largest single shareholder in Rio Tinto by now. Xiong emphasized that Chinalco's strategic objectives of internationalization and (entering into markets for) multiple metals haven't changed.

A day before the meeting, the premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, visited the head office of Chinalco, and presented members of Chinalco's senior management, including Xiong, with a talk on Western Australian mining resources and related investment policies.

Xiong said that Chinalco is willing to search for future cooperation opportunities with Western Australia and establish win-win cooperations. He also noted that Chinalco is also willing to explore either independent investment in Western Australia, or joint investment in Western Australia with a cooperative partner.'

Xiong told Caijing reporters that Western Australia is rich in other mining resources besides iron-ore. He indicated that Chinalco is mainly interested in aluminium and other nonferrous metal resources there.

Chinalco is still confident of long-term investment in the mining industry, Xiong said, despite the fact that mining resource prices are currently quite high.

When asked if Chinalco would play the role of a white knight' in the merge of the Anglo American and Xstrata, Xiong said that Chinalco was paying attention tot the matter, but he also stated that Chinalco, as a global mining company, is also paying attention to the next round of restructuring in the global mining industry.

The board of directors of Anglo American refused the all-share merger of equals plan proposed by Switzerland's Xstrata. Industry insiders believe that Anglo American is looking for a Chinese investment partner to increase the balance in a merger with Xstrata.