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BASE METALS Simandou still Guinea’s knight in shining armour, says Rio Tinto Rio Tinto’s diamonds and minerals chief executive Alan Davies solidified the company’s commitment to building the billion dollar Guinea-based Simandou iron ore project at the 2014 Mining Indaba. Once complete, the project (entailing mine, rail and port infrastructure) will create thousands of job opportunities and double the size of the country’s economy, writes Laura Cornish. IN SHORT Despite years of delays, Rio Tinto has reaffirmed its commitment to develop the Simandou project in Guinea – set to become one of the largest mining project developments in Africa. I t has been 17 years (1997) since Rio Tinto first started exploring and evaluating Simandou’s iron ore potential and eight years (2006) since the Guinean government granted it the mining concession to advance the project further. Simandou has a 2.5 Bnt resource, which Rio Tinto announced that same year. The project is set to become the largest integrated iron ore mine and infrastructure project developed in Africa, which Rio Tinto has been stating for years. No potential prospect or project has come along since to rival the project’s status, despite the delays in taking this project forward into development. Billions of dollars have already been spent on the project to date, from drilling and preliminary study work to social and economic labour plans and environmental impact assessments. The project is massive in size and will ultimately consist of a 95 Mtpa mining operation, a Trans-Guinean railway approximately 670 km in length to transport the ore from the mining concession to the Guinean coast and a new deep-water port south of Conakry in the Forécariah prefecture. All photographs show the extensive amount of on-site exploration and drilling work that has been undertaken on the Simandou property. Courtesy of Rio Tinto 28 MINING REVIEW AFRICA ISSUE 3 2014 The very nature and size of the project could largely be attributed to the on-going years of delays and preparation to ready the project for development, along with political instability, fluctuating and unstable iron ore prices and land right legal battle. The result is that the original first production date, 2015, is almost impossible. 2018 is a more realistic start-up date.