* Signs three contracts with govt on Jan. 29
* Exxaro aims to expand production to 10 mln tonnes/year
CAPE TOWN, Feb 4 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Exxaro Resources has won a permit to start production at the Republic of Congo’s Mayoko iron ore mine, an official in the ministry of mines said on Tuesday.
Medard Ndombi, a geologist at the Congolese ministry, confirmed that two other contracts had been signed on Jan. 29, covering rail transport to the coast and port infrastructure at Pointe-Noire.
Ndombi added that Exxaro could export up to 2 million tonnes of iron ore used for steelmaking this year and 10 million tonnes by 2017, as the port is expanded.
The company was not immediately available for comment.
Exxaro’s chief executive Sipho Nkosi had previously told Reuters that it hoped to start production last year.
Exxaro, which acquired the project in 2012 as part of a takeover of African Iron, has already spent 1.3 billion rand ($115.7 million) on Mayoko since its acquisition, the group said in its 2013 mid-year statement.
Congo Republic’s resources, with the exception of oil, are relatively undeveloped although companies such as Glencore and Sundance Resources are prospecting there. ($1 = 11.2320 South African rand) (Reporting by Silvia Antonioli and Olivia Kumwenda; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Dale Hudson)