Niron Metals, an investment vehicle co-founded and headed by the former Xstrata boss Mick Davis, has signed an MOU with Liberia which will allow Niron to use a rail and port to export iron ore from Guinea’s Zogota deposit, previously owned by BSG Resources (BSGR).
Gaining access to the shipping route, the same one Guinea vetoed for years for the much larger Simandou project, could help Davis bring the proposed mine into production quickly and relatively cheaply.
“This MOU is an important milestone in our plans to develop the Zogota project,” Davis said in an emailed statement. “We intend to complete our feasibility study within six months and continue to work with relevant stakeholders to bring Zogota rapidly into production for the benefit of all.”
Guinea has always said that ore mined from Simandou would have to be shipped via the country’s own ports, but has shown more flexibility when it comes to the much smaller Zogota.
Davis’s comeback to the mining industry was made possible thanks to a deal between the Guinean government and BSGR, which ended a long-running dispute over mining rights in the resource-rich west African country. BSGR has been embroiled in bribery and corruption probes, but has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
As part of the make-up agreement, Davis was asked to develop the Zogota project, which is expected to produce around 2 million tonnes of iron ore a year.
Davis is well known in the mining industry. He led Xstrata from a $500 million business in the early part of the last decade to an operation so big that — at one point — it made a takeover offer for Anglo American (LON:AAL).
His latest venture, mining fund X2 Resources, ended up losing its backers as it was unable to score any deals in the three years since launch.
Niron said it had started work on a feasibility study, which aims to complete within six months, adding that it was in discussions with Guinea on a number of issues, including payments and project milestones.