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Xstrata to Invest $6 Billion in Mauritania Ore, Minister Says

Xstrata Plc, in the process of buying three iron ore projects in Mauritania through Sphere Minerals Ltd., will invest $6 billion in the country to produce 50 million metric tons of the steelmaking ingredient a year, Industry and Mines Minister Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Oudaa said.

Xstrata, based in Zug, Switzerland, plans to achieve the production figure in the “short term,” Oudaa said in a conference in Nouakchott, the capital.

“It’s far too early in the process to commit to actual numbers,” Mike Bartlett, an Xstrata spokesman in London, said today by phone. “Xstrata is committed to creating a world-class iron ore business and clearly Mauritania will play a key part.”

Xstrata, seeking to boost access to ore supplies as prices rise, is close to completing the $520 million purchase of Sphere after securing acceptances from more than half of the Australian company’s shareholders. Sphere’s projects in Mauritania include half of the $1.65 billion Guelb el Aouj development.

“Information already in the market place suggests these assets could produce up to 50 million tons a year,” Bartlett said. “But again, this is aspirational at this stage.”

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