Republic of Congo Cancels Iron-Ore Project With Australian Miner

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The Republic of Congo terminated its contract with Australian minerSundance Resources Ltd. to develop the massive Mbalam-Nabeba iron-ore deposit and awarded three new permits to a relatively unknown company with Chinese backing.

In a Nov. 30 decree jointly signed by President Denis Sassou Nguesso and four ministers, the government cited several reasons to withdraw the contract for the iron-ore deposit that straddles the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, including insufficient development and non-payment of rights.

Instead, permits for three areas known as Avima, Nabeba and Bandodo have been awarded to Sangha Mining Development, a company based in the city of Pointe-Noire, according to the decree obtained by Bloomberg. The deposit on the Congolese side is estimated to hold at least 500 million tons of the ore.

The Australian miner started operations in northern Congo in 2010 and has invested almost $300 million. Sundance has notified the government that it will dispute the withdrawal after hearing of the decision “through informal channels” earlier this month, Chief Executive Officer Giulio Casello said by phone. The company has struggled to raise funds for the project because the environmental impact certificate hasn’t been signed, he said.

Under the current agreement, differences with the government are to be resolved amicably within 60 days, after which the company can bring the matter to a court of arbitration in London, Casello said. He declined to say which steps the company is planning to take.

In 2013, the Chinese company Sichuan Hanlong Groupattempted a $1.2 billion takeover of Sundance that would have given it control of the iron-ore project.

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