CONAKRY/LONDON, Aug 29 (Reuters) – Leading miner BHP is near a deal to divest its stake in Guinea’s Nimba iron ore deposit, while three big miners are vying to develop half of the country’s Simandou, the largest known untapped iron ore reserve, sources close to the talks said.
Guinea has struggled for decades to extract money from its iron ore, which has been left undeveloped because of protracted legal disputes and the cost of infrastructure.
BHP has also tried for years to sell its stake in the Nimba prospect, which does not fit the company’s preference for operating in stable, developed economies. Banking sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the price would be insignificant as BHP is keen to seal a deal.
This year, a rise in iron ore prices following cyclone disruption in Australia and reduced output in Brazil after a Vale dam burst in January, combined with a resolution of one of the legal disputes that have blocked Simandou’s development, helped to revive interest in Guinea’s assets.
In addition to interest in Simandou, there has also been a flurry of interest in smaller iron ore deposits near Guinea’s border with Liberia that theoretically could be exported via a much shorter link to the Liberian coast.