Morien, spun off from the Erdene Resource Development Corp. in Q4 2012, is negotiating for Xstrata Coal Donkin’s 75% stake in the proposed $500 million Donkin Project at Cape Breton in the Canadian province.

Morien currently controls a 25% ownership in Donkin, which it acquired from Erdene, based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, across from Halifax, the largest city in Atlantic Canada. In purchasing Xstrata’s share, Morien would receive full control of a mine producing 3.6 million metric tons of high-quality steam and coking coal annually upon commercial operation in 2015.

Xstrata Coal Donkin, an Xstrata unit, is one of the world’s largest diversified mining businesses, having announced plans about a year ago to sell off its Donkin interest; Xstrata Donkin officials said in 2012 the project wasn’t big enough for their business strategy although that year witnessed no sale.

Now, after Q1 2013, Morien officials say they are seeking to fill any sales voids Xstrata may be encountering. “Morien continues to stand ready to take on a more active role with its potential partners to proceed in a favorable conclusion,” Morien CEO John Budreski said.

That “active role” includes negotiations with Xstrata to buy Donkin, according to Kenneth MacDonald, vice president of business strategy and CFO for Erdene and a Morien executive. “We have been looking to cover all options, including acting on our own or acquiring the interest” of Xstrata.

So far, Xstrata’s lingering sale has not affected Donkin’s timetable, MacDonald said. “I don’t think anything is insurmountable yet,” he added. “You can always expedite things later on.”

Once a major coal producer, most Nova Scotia coal mining is done by Pioneer Coal, with headquarters in Antigonish, 30 miles from Cape Breton. But Donkin, notes Morien officials, would change that, in a big way.