A private group of Chinese magnates is planning to take Guinea’s Simandou, the world’s largest undeveloped iron ore project, from Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO), reports The Australian.
According to The Sunday Times, China International Fund (CIF) and Angola’s state oil company would propose to take ownership of Simandou from Rio by having the Chinese-controlled and London-listed Bellzone Mining Plc (LON:BZM) offer Guinea $700 million in cash. The amount is equivalent to the sum Rio paid the West African country under an agreement reached last year.
But the World Bank’s private sector development financing arm, International Finance Corporation, is coming to Rio’s recue.
The Washington-based IFC, which acquired its stake in Simandou in 2006, has announced today its plans to invest $150 million of equity in the highly wanted project, as the joint venture between Rio and China’s Chalco races towards first production.
Rio Tinto has been exploring in Guinea since 1996, but intensified its plans for building Africa’s biggest mining development at Simandou in 2007, when markets were thriving and BHP Billiton tried an unsuccessful hostile $135 billion purchase offer.
Although the Anglo-Australian miner intended to be in production by next year, financial difficulties and the previous Guinea government’s decision to strip half of Rio’s tenements, threatening the one that holds the Simandou deposit, have delayed it.
The company is developing a railway, a mine and a port in order to ship its first cargo of the steelmaking raw ingredient by mid-2015, increasing iron ore output to 95 million metric tons a year from Simandou in the future.
Simandou will turn Guinea into the world’s third-largest iron ore producer after Australia and Brazil.