* Ivory Coast seeking to develop of western regions
* Pushing large iron mining projects
* Requires port expansion for ore exports
By Ange Aboa
SAN PEDRO, Ivory Coast, May 8 Ivory Coast's port
of San Pedro is seeking 777 billion CFA francs ($1.65 billion)
from private partners to fund upgrades that aim to make it one
of West Africa's top shipping hubs, including for iron ore and
nickel, the transport minister said.
San Pedro is already the world's leading port for cocoa
exports, shipping more than half of total output from Ivory
Coast, the top producer of the chocolate ingredient. It also
exports coffee, palm oil, timber and cotton.
But the government of President Alassane Ouattara wants to
make the port the centrepiece of an ambitious plan that would
see more than 8 trillion CFA francs invested in the development
of the country's predominantly agricultural western regions.
"The port of San Pedro is our next development and growth
hub, because it is from San Pedro that we will export iron and
nickel ore," Transport Minister Gaoussou Toure told an
investment forum late on Wednesday.
Ivory Coast has long neglected its potentially lucrative
mining sector in favour of a concentration on soft commodity
exports. But following a decade-long crisis that ended in a
brief civil war in 2011, it is seeking to diversify its economy.
India's Tata Steel is finalising exploration and
feasibility studies for its Mt. Nimba and Mt. Gao concessions
and plans to invest around $1 billion to develop the two iron
It plans to use the ore mined in Ivory Coast to supply steel
mills in Britain and the Netherlands operated by its subsidiary
Tata Steel UK, the second-largest steel producer in
Detailing the investment plans, Toure said San Pedro was
seeking private partners to finance the construction of a new
500 billion CFA franc terminal to handle ore exports.
A proposed second container terminal is expected to cost 260
billion CFA francs, he said, while a multipurpose terminal will
cost an additional 17 billion CFA.
San Pedro entered a partnership with Port of Antwerp
International (PAI), a subsidiary of Antwerp's port authority,
in 2012 as part of efforts to secure $230 million in financing
from private investors.
The port announced in February it planned to build a new
refined fuel terminal targeting distribution in the country's
west, as well as export markets in neighbouring Liberia, Guinea
($1 = 471.1490 CFA Francs)
(Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)