MELBOURNE, July 9 (Reuters) – Canadian miner Barrick Gold Corp and China’s Shandong Gold on Monday said they would deepen cooperation beyond their Argentinian joint venture, potentially working together on acquisitions.

Barrick Gold, the world’s largest producer of bullion, last year signed a near billion-dollar deal to sell Shandong a 50-percent stake in its Veladero mine in Argentina. The development is one of Barrick’s top five gold mines.

“The parties have agreed to consider opportunities to work together on acquisition opportunities or potential asset sales, if both parties agree it is in their collective best interests,” Barrick and Shandong said in a joint statement on Monday.

The move comes as acquisitions in the metals mining sector have begun to pick up, with an increase in joint ventures between Western and Chinese mining firms.

China’s Chifeng Jilong Gold Mining last month bought the Laos copper and gold operations of MMG the Australian arm of China’s MinMetals for $275 million.

Global miner Rio Tinto also in June signed a joint venture agreement with China Minmetals Corp, as the companies look to explore mineral deposits in China.

Shandong and Barrick in their statement said they would share expertise in areas such as miningtechnology and information management, as well as giving each other access to their respective supplier networks, service providers, investors and capital providers. Share expertise in areas such as miningtechnology and information management.

Prior to the announcement, Shandong had also been assessing whether to join Barrick in a potential partnership at its Pascua-Lama operations, on the border between Argentina and Chile.

Barrick put that gold and silver project on hold in 2013 due to environmental issues, political opposition, labour unrest and development costs that had ballooned to $8.5 billion.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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