RPT-Rio Tinto seeks to finalise Simandou investment plan
CONAKRY, March 6 (Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto pledged on Thursday to press ahead with finalising an investment framework for the long-delayed Simandou iron ore project and said it would seek ratification from parliament as soon as possible.
West Africa's Guinea confiscated half of the giant Simandou project in 2008, accusing Rio of moving too slowly, but the two sides settled differences in 2011 and it is seeking to develop the southern half. The company pushed back its start date by at least three years to 2018 last year, without giving a reason.
"The parties have affirmed their commitment on the Simandou project. They have agreed that the priority is to agree the investment framework on which they are working relentlessly and to ratify it by the parliament as soon as possible," Rio Tinto said in a statement.
It added that after the project was ratified, it would aim to complete a banking feasibility study by early 2015.
The pledge follows a meeting in late February between Rio Tinto management and President Alpha Conde, the group added.
Guinea had previously committed to providing 51 percent of project's costs although sources close to the negotiations have since said it does not have the funding available.
Simandou, one of the largest untapped deposits of iron ore, is expected to cost up to $15 billion and could turn the country into a major exporter of iron ore.
The right to develop the northern part of the deposit is held by the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz BSG Resources.