By Dow Jones Business News, October 24, 2013, 01:05:00 PM EDT
By Alex MacDonald
LONDON--Mining titan BHP Billiton Ltd. ( BHP ) is still in talks to sell its stake in a major Guinean iron ore deposit
to Brazilian mining venture B&A Mineracao, BHP's chief executive said Thursday.
"The discussions are continuing and we wait and see if there is a possibility to reach an agreement," Andrew Mackenzie
told his shareholders at the company's annual general meeting here. Mr. Mackenzie was responding to a shareholder
question over whether the company was still in talks with Brazilian mining venture B&A Mineracao over the sale of its
41.3% stake in Mount Nimba, an iron ore-rich deposit located close to the Liberian border.
Roger Agnelli, the co-founder of B&A Mineracao has long been interested in Guinea's iron ore potential. As the former
CEO of the world's largest iron ore miner Vale SA ( VALE ), he spear-headed the Brazilian miner's expansion into Guinea
through the purchase of a stake in Guinea's Simandou iron ore deposit.
BHP announced under previous management that it was interested in exiting West Africa in order to focus investment in
its operations elsewhere. Mr. Mackenzie, who took over the company's reins earlier this year from his predecessor, said
there was a possibility that BHP could develop Mount Nimba, but he said the company has more than enough resources in
the Pilbara region of Western Australia to meet customer demand.
"I don't think our overall direction has changed," Mr. Mackenzie told reporters after the meeting. "We have a 100
years of reserves in the Pilbara. By far and way the best opportunities for this company is--in a very capital efficient
way--to grow the productive capacity of the Pilbara and that really confirms our strategy for iron ore."
"We strongly believe as a company that this will provide us with the vast majority of the resources that we would want
to deliver to our customers going forward, and so West Africa, Guinea and Liberia, does not feature majority in our
plans for iron ore expansion at the moment," he told shareholders.
Mount Nimba, like other iron ore operations in Guinea such as the larger Simandou deposit, have yet to start
commercial production due to political instability in Guinea in past years and questions over the preferred route to
ship the iron ore to market. The projects at Simandou and Mount Nimba had originally planned to ship the ore through
Liberia as their preferred route to market.
The Mount Nimba project is 41.3% owned by BHP and 41.3% owned by Newmont Mining Corp. ( NEM ). France'sAreva SA
(AREVA.FR) owns a 12.4% stake.
Write to Alex MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org
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