World’s biggest mining project to start after 27 years of setbacks and scandals – by Tom Wilson (Financial Times – January 7, 2024)

Rio Tinto hopes $20bn Guinea iron ore, rail and port plan will pave way for ‘new era’ of mining

The world’s biggest mining project, a $20bn iron ore, rail and port development in a remote corner of west Africa, is expected to start this year after a 27-year wait beset by setbacks, scandals and several false dawns.

UK-listed Rio Tinto first secured an exploration licence in the Simandou mountains in south-eastern Guinea, 550km from the coastal capital, in 1997. Since then the country of 13mn people has had two coups d’état, four heads of state and three presidential elections.

In that time, Rio Tinto has had six chief executives, lost half the licence, fought drawn-out court battles with several corporate rivals, settled corruption allegations with US authorities and even sought to exit the project completely, only for the sale to fall through.

Finally, in 2024, once Rio Tinto’s state-owned Chinese partners receive the last approval from Beijing, the Anglo-Australian miner intends to fire the starting gun on the most complex project in its history. “There is nothing else out there of this scale and size,” Rio Tinto’s Bold Baatar told the Financial Times in a recent interview.

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