Ivory Coast's Ouattara replaces mines minister

ABIDJAN, March 1 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara replaced the industry and mines minister on Thursday, naming Trade Minister Souleymane Diarrassouba to fill the position on an interim basis.

Diarrassouba replaces Jean-Claude Brou, who had served as industry minister since 2012 and added the mining portfolio the following year. Brou is leaving the government to become president of the commission of regional bloc ECOWAS.

For decades, Ivory Coast largely neglected its mining potential in favour of developing its agricultural commodities sector. It is the world’s leading cocoa producer.

Since Ouattara assumed office, the government has sought to diversify its economy, including passing one of Africa’s most business-friendly mining codes.

The sector recorded revenues of 539 billion CFA francs ($1.02 billion) last year, up from 483 billion in 2016, the government announced in January.

Gold is the principal mining export with companies including Randgold Resources, Toronto-listed Endeavour and Australia’s Newcrest. Perseus Mining is to open a gold mine in the first quarter of this year.

Ivory Coast also produces manganese, nickel and small amounts of diamonds. (Reporting by Ange Aboa and Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Janet Lawrence)