LIBREVILLE Feb 3 Gabon and mining firm
BHP Billiton have reached a deal over the
Belinga iron ore concession in Gabon after it was taken off
China's CMEC, a government official from the Central African
nation's government told Reuters on Friday.
CMEC secured rights to the Belinga with a 2007 deal. But the
project was shrouded in controversy and stalled first over
concerns raised about environmental impact of the project and
then over whether CMEC would be able to deliver.
"An agreement has already been reached between the Gabonese
government and BHP Billiton over the exploitation of the Belinga
iron ore mine by this group (BHP) after the eviction of China's
COMIBEL (the local unit of CMEC)," Sosthene Nguema Nguema, a
member of Gabonese government delegation in charge of overseeing
the Belinga project, said.
"All that remains is for this an official agreement to be
signed by the two parties," Nguema added, without giving any
further details over the timing or value of the deal.
BHP Billiton declined to comment. But Nguema said that the
license had been taken from CMEC in December as the firm did not
have sufficient expertise to mine the resource.
The deal with CMEC was initially signed by the late
president Omar Bongo but Ali Bongo, his son and successor,
called for a review of the agreement after he came to power.