(Bloomberg)-China is close to giving the go-ahead for some of its biggest state-owned companies to develop the giant Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea, potentially paving the way for the project to be built after years of legal wrangling.
China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which oversees the biggest government-owned enterprises, is actively pushing forward with the project, the world’s biggest untapped iron ore deposit, according to people familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.
For years, it seemed the super-rich ore under a jungle-covered mountain range might never be dug up. Simandou was practically forgotten by the wider mining industry as owners including Rio Tinto Group, Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and authorities in the West African nation fought over rights to develop it.
That all changed in 2019 after Steinmetz ended a seven-year dispute with Guinea’s government that saw him relinquish claims on half of the mine. It’s now in the hands of a Guinean-led and Chinese-backed consortium that wants production to start within five years.
The reemergence of Simandou has spooked executives at the top iron ore miners. Half of the project could deliver more than 100 million tons a year of the highest quality ore just as the outlook for the material sours and Chinese demand plateaus.
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