* Would be financed by Mauritian govt, Mangalore Refinery
* Mauritius could benefit from cheaper oil prices
* Refinery could be operational by 2015
PORT LOUIS, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Mauritius is in talks with India’s Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL.BO) about a $2 billion oil refinery on the Indian Ocean island that could be operational by 2015, a minister said on Monday.
“This $2 billion dollar oil refinery project may be operational in four years. It would be partly financed by the Mauritian government and Mangalore Refinery,” Trade and Industry Minister Shawkutally Soodhun told Reuters.
The refinery would process crude oil from Africa before sending products on to India.
“There is a possibility that India use Mauritius as a hub to refine its oil and we would benefit in terms of cheaper oil prices,” Soodhun said.
Soodhun said India was becoming an increasingly strategic partner for oil producers in Africa and would import greater amounts of crude from there.
The project may face opposition from environmentalists already worried by the ecological pressures placed on the coral-fringed island by an expanding leisure sector, as well as luxury tourism operators.
Inflation in Mauritius almost hit double figures in late 2008 due to high oil prices and surging food costs that underscored the import-dependent island’s vulnerability to external shocks. (Editing by Richard Lough and Anthony Barker)