* Commodity stocks lead gains

* Local nickel miners clocked gains

* Star Entertainment rise on interest from consortium including Hard Rock group

May 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Monday, backed by commodity stocks reflecting soaring prices, with casino operator Star emerging as the top benchmark gainer after confirming a takeover approach from Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6% to 7,864.70 at the close of trade, 45.8 points short of its record high. The benchmark ended 0.9% lower on Friday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is due to release the minutes of the May meeting on Tuesday. The country's benchmark policy rate is at a 12-year high of 4.35%.

Glenn Yin, Head of Research and Analysis at AETOS Capital Group, said he would be scanning for dovish remarks from the minutes meeting, especially after the country's federal budget last week.

Cash-strapped Star Entertainment confirmed it had received interest from parties, including a group of investors that included Hard Rock. Shares of the troubled firm rose as much as 24.4% to A$0.56.

Mining stocks closed 2.1% higher after iron-ore prices climbed to their highest in three months, following China's efforts to revive the economy which has been hurt by a struggling property market.

Mining behemoths BHP and Rio Tinto added significantly to the benchmark, closing 1.9% and 2.8% higher, respectively.

Shares of nickel miners rose after the underlying prices of the metal gained 7% over weekend following an outbreak of riots in New Caledonia.

"Aussie nickel miners are also benefiting from the outbreak of riots in New Caledonia, the expected disruption in this key global supply region is turning buyers to Australia," Yin said.

Energy stocks ended 2.2% higher, as global oil prices inched on political uncertainty after the death of Iran's president and the Saudi crown prince's health concerns.

Gold stocks finished 3.6% higher, with prices of the bullion hitting a record high amid cooling U.S. inflation which bolstered hopes of an early rate cut.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.3% higher at 11,735.71 points. (Reporting by Sherin Sunny in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)