By Jeb Blount
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil Feb 22 The head of
Brazilian investment group B&A Mineracao confirmed the company
is interested in Guinean iron ore assets but dismissed market
speculation its interest extended to a slice of Guinea's biggest
One of the founders of the group, Roger Agnelli, is a former
boss of Brazilian miner Vale and led Vale's push into
Guinea in 2010 when it took a stake in iron ore assets that
included the northern half of Simandou.
Agnelli, ousted from Vale's top job in 2011, has returned to
Guinea at the helm of his new firm, which is nearing completion
in talks with BHP Billiton over its stake in
the Mount Nimba iron ore project near the Liberian border,
sources familiar with the matter have said.
The move for Mount Nimba, a high-grade iron ore project that
is much smaller than Simandou, has sparked speculation over
Agnelli's ultimate ambitions in Guinea at a time when mining
rights are being reviewed.
Eduardo Ledsham, a former Vale executive who is now chief
executive of B&A Mineracao, on Friday ruled out an interest in
one of the world's top untapped iron ore deposits.
"We have no interest whatsoever in Simandou, which already
has two strong partners (for the northern portion) in Vale and
BSGR," he said at a press and industry event at the company's
BSGR is the mining arm of a business owned by Israeli
billionaire Beny Steinmetz.
Ledsham did confirm an interest, however, in the Mount Nimba
"We are in negotiations with BHP and (fellow stakeholder)
Newmont, but I cannot give you any details because of a strict
confidentiality agreement," he said.
Agnelli, chairman of the firm who also spoke at the event,
underlined Guinea's attractiveness.
"If you want high quality iron ore like Vale has in Carajas
(in northern Brazil), the only place to get it is Guinea," he
B&A, which was set up last year to invest in fertilizer,
iron ore, copper and the transportation systems needed to move
minerals from mine to market, is looking for projects in Latin
America and Africa that will allow the company to capitalize on
growing demand for raw materials as developing countries get
Within five years, B&A expects to produce 30 million tonnes
of iron ore, 500,000 tonnes of potassium and 1 million tonnes of
Vale itself, however, has put the Simandou project on ice,
citing uncertainties as Guinea reviews mining rights granted by
a previous government.
B&A Mineracao was founded by Agnelli's holding company, AGN
Participacoes, with investment bank BTG Pactual, which is
controlled by billionaire financier Andre Esteves.
Agnelli's years at Vale have focused interest on B&A's
ambitions in iron ore, but he said his priority would be to grow
in the fertiliser business, betting on rising demand for food
from a growing middle class in Brazil, India and China.
B&A said venture Fosfatar would begin production from
September at a project in the northern Brazilian state of Para,
which will produce 150,000 tonnes of phosphate per year.