UPDATE 1-Guinea says production date for Simandou will be missed
LONDON, June 12 (Reuters) - Guinea's mines minister said on Wednesday an estimated 2015 first production date for the portion of the Simandou iron ore deposit held by Rio Tinto would not be met.
"In 2011, the first date of production agreed with Rio was 2015. Today, the reality is this cannot be respected," Mines Minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana said.
He said Guinea was in "open discussion" with Rio, taking into account the technical and financial complexity of the Simandou project, one of the world's largest untapped iron ore deposits.
Fofana was in London with a Guinea government delegation to brief investors on Guinea's mining sector ahead of the G8 summit that will be pushing on transparency.
He said the government of Guinea was considering options for the estimated $20 billion Simandou project, including integrated infrastructure that could be shared by miners working north and south.
Rio owns the half of the Simandou deposit, while the other half is held by BSG Resources (BSGR), controlled by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz. BSGR's rights over the deposits are currently being reviewed by the Guinean government.
"We would like (the iron ore) evacuated by the same infrastructure. It would reduce the cost ... for just one mining company," Fofana said.
He said the government was open to exports through Liberia for the Nimba project, another Iron ore deposit close to the Liberian border, but not for Simandou.