The Chinese groups are also interested in securing coal offtake agreements, according to an unnamed source who spoke to Dow Jones Newswires.
The prospectus for Aston’s long-touted public float could be ready in weeks, according to a different source who spoke to the news wire.
The initial public offering is expected to raise $500-700 million with valuations of Aston’s market cap forecast to exceed $2 billion, though these were made before the resources super-profits tax was announced.
Aston awarded Every Day Mines Services a three-rig drilling contract for the Maules Creek project in May.
EDMS subsidiary GOS Drilling already handles a major drilling contract for China Shenhua Energy’s Watermark project in the region and is familiar with the area.
Owned by entrepreneur and former electrician Nathan Tinkler, Aston purchased the Maules Creek project for $480 million cash in November.
The project has total coal resources of 398 million tonnes, according to Coal & Allied.
Aston is aiming to develop Maules Creek into a 12Mt per annum open cut operation delivering premium semi-soft coking coal and low-ash export-quality thermal coal for a mine life of 20 years.