Avima launches arbitration against Congo Republic in iron ore dispute

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Avima Iron Ore Limited said on Monday it had launched arbitration proceedings against Congo Republic and is seeking $27 billion in damages after the government stripped its production license last year.

The United Arab Emirates-registered company’s iron ore licence was one of three that Congo’s government revoked late last year and handed to a little-known company backed by Chinese investment called Sangha Mining Development Sasu.

Avima said in a statement it had been scheduled to start production and ship high-grade iron ore to customers from a port in neighbouring Cameroon beginning in January 2021.

Proceedings commenced at the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce last Friday, Avima said.

“We are taking all necessary action and pre-emptive measures to protect our investment against these unlawful attempts to expropriate our assets,” said Avima’s executive chairman, Socrates Vasiliades.

Congo’s mines ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

Australia’s Sundance Resources, whose Mbalam-Nabeba project straddles the border of Congo and Cameroon, filed for arbitration against Congo in March after the government stripped it of its license. It is seeking $8.8 billion in damages.

Sundance also referred a dispute with Cameroon to arbitration last week after the government said it was in talks with Congo to develop the Cameroonian side of the mine with Chinese investors.

Reporting by Melanie Burton and Aaron Ross in Dakar; Editing by Bate Felix and Bernadette Baum