BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE:BHP) has chosen mining venture B&A Mineração as the preferred bidder for its Mount Nimba iron ore mine, one of the largest deposits of the mineral in Guinea, Reuters reports.
In July, news came to light that BHP —the world's number one mining company— was looking for a buyer for its West African project.
BHP owns roughly 40% of the Mount Nimba deposit. Gold miner Newmont (NYSE:NEM) holds another 40% and French power plant builder Areva (EPA:AREVA) is selling its stake, which would leave BHP and Newmont in a 50/50 venture.
The move will be a blow to Guinea's president, Alpha Condé, who made attracting Western investors a top priority for his government.
The country, which relies on minerals for more than 70% of its exports, adopted a new mining code, even enlisting the help of George Soros in drafting the regulations.
Other than iron ore, the West African nation has great mining assets, half the world's reserves of bauxite —the feedstock ore for aluminum— and significant gold and uranium deposits.
Image of Alpha Condé from World Economic Forum