Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting group of companies disclosed on Wednesday a 19.96% stake in Atlas Iron, heating up the race for the small iron-ore miner.
Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd holds a 14.97% stake in Atlas, while Hancock's unit Redstone Corporation will have a 4.99% interest in the Perth-based miner.
The move comes a week after Fortescue Metals Group said it has built a 19.9% interest in Atlas Iron, giving it a large enough stake to block a A$280-million takeover of Atlas by Mineral Resources.
Australian mining infrastructure group Mineral Resources responded to Fortescue, by allowing Atlas to hold talks with other potential buyers.
In April, Mineral Resources agreed to buy Atlas via a scheme of arrangement, saying at the time that the amalgamation of its existing iron ore assets in the Pilbara region with those of Atlas would lead to cost savings. Atlas is a hot target for takeover by Fortescue due to its North West Infrastructure (NWI), which the firm's joint venture with Brockman Mining and FerrAus has a capacity to export 50-million tonnes per annum from Port Hedland, UBS said in a statement last week.