Grupo Mexico has accused Asarco and Lehman Brothers of deliberately blocking its efforts to gather information that the Mexican mega-miner needs for its own proposed reorganization plan to fully repay Asarco's creditors.

Nevertheless, Asarco announced Thursday that it has completed its final step to select a plan sponsor to successfully emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Companies, who previously submitted bids to purchase Asarco's operating asset met  Thursday with the mining company's lawyers and financial advisors.

The company intends to select the highest and best bid that would be in the best interests of the company and its creditors, Asarco's attorneys declared in a news release. 

Parent company Grupo Mexico said it believes the reluctance of Asarco and Lehman Brothers to provide information underscores the concerted effort during the past several months to keep Grupo Mexico from re-establishing control of Asarco. It also believes it is further evidence that Asarco intends to pursue its own agenda of selling the company's assets over the objections of Grupo Mexico, which is the only party that offered to fund a 100-percent payment plan to make the company's creditors whole.

Specifically, Grupo Mexico and Americas Mining Corporation (AMC) have offered to backstop a stand-alone plan of reorganization which will pay all allowed claims of Asarco's creditors in full, in cash, or otherwise leave such allows claims unimpaired-without a break-up fee. The company insisted that it needs the information to ensure that its claims are properly addressed. The information requested include allowed claims related to Asarco's environmental liabilities, information about other bids for company assets that Lehman Brothers has received, and details about how the auction process will proceed.

Grupo also asked the court to determine the claims on their own merit rather than allowing claims to be inflated by today's high commodity price for copper. The Mexican mining conglomerate vowed it is prepared to pursue all legal means necessary to ensure a just process to take Asarco out of Chapter 11, once all claims are legally estimated.

Asarco's U.S. assets were acquired by Grupo Mexico in 1999, as Asarco's most profitable asset, Southern Peru Copper, was shifted to a Grupo Mexico subsidiary. By August 2005, Asarco filed for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt has signed an order to pay up to $28.5 million to settle claims that Asarco polluted Montana's Blackfoot River.

Government consultants had estimated the U.S. and the State of Montana were owed $105 million in cleanup costs. Last month Asarco agreed to pay Montana $8 million and give the state a $19.8 million unsecured claim in its bankruptcy case. Asarco also will pay $500,000 to the United States and grant the federal government a $228,000 claim.