By Cooper Inveen
FREETOWN, Aug 15 (Reuters) - SL Mining, a mining company owned by U.S. commodity trader Gerald Group, said it plans to seek arbitration in an international court against the Sierra Leonean government in relation to a dispute over iron ore exports.
The government banned exports from SL Mining's Marampa mine last month because it said the company had failed to keep up the mine's agreed work schedule or make royalty payments, a claim SL Mining denies.
In a letter to the company dated Tuesday and made available to Reuters by the government, Mines Minister Foday Rado Yokie said that "as a sign of good faith" he would be willing to lift the export ban should SL Mining pay a $1 million bond for uncompleted work, among other fees.
Responding a day later in a letter to the minister, made available to Reuters by the company, SL Mining director Alejandro Skidelsky described the offer as "an attempt at extortion" and said that the company "has already served notices of disputes in respect of its rights to bring matters to international arbitration".
SL Mining estimates that its Marampa concession holds about one billion tonnes of iron ore with the potential for production to run for the next 30 years.
The license was previously held by Timis Mining Corporation, run by Australian-Romanian businessman Frank Timis. Timis relinquished the concession in 2017 after having failed to meet minimum activity requirements.
(Additional reporting by Pratima Desai in London Editing by Edward McAllister and Alexandra Hudson)
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