China Given Monopoly In Gabon's Untapped Iron Ore Resources

China has been granted sole rights by Gabon's government to exploit huge untapped iron ore and build costly rail links needed to reach the site in the tropical forest, officials said June 2. Chinese consortium headed by the China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CEMEC) has been granted the rights, said a statement published in the government daily L'Union. It said the Gabonese state would have a share in the project but gave no details of the cost of the massive contract.

The decision kicks out the world's leading iron miner, Brazil's Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), which since April last year had headed a consortium with China's CEMEC and Sinosteel, along with the French group Eramet.

China is looking increasingly to Africa as a source of mineral resources to help power its rapidly growing economy.

The iron ore at the Belinga's reserves is estimated to be at least a billion tons, 60% rich in iron. But the site has never been developed because of the prohibitive cost of the necessary infrastructure. Getting to the ore means that two branch lines will have to be added to the Transgabonese Railway to connect the site with Santa Clara, north of Libreville, where a deepwater port is to be built. A hydro-electric dam will also have to be built to provide the necessary power.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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