Core Says BHP Gabon Play Spurs Investor Interest

Core Mining Ltd. said interest from investors in its Avima deposit in the Republic of Congo increased after reports BHP Billiton Ltd. is seeking control of a nearby project in Gabon.

“That’s triggered some strong interest,” said Socrates Vasiliades, chief executive officer, in an interview. “We’re listening to proposals at the moment. If it helps fund us through to production, then why not. Let’s talk. It’s a race.”

The closely held company, which is studying a $4.5 billion iron-ore mine, port and rail project, counts OAO Severstal and Glencore International Plc as investors and is seeking to start output by 2015. BHP, the largest mining company, is in talks with Gabon on control of the nation’s biggest iron ore deposit, Belinga, two people familiar with the talks said last month.

Avima is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the proposed Belinga site and may produce as much as 35 million metric tons of the steel-making raw material a year, making it one of the largest producing iron ore mines on the continent.

“Bringing in some expertise with an established player would be very good for the company and its shareholders,” Vasiliades said. Core said in November the deposit was estimated to hold about 1 billion tons of iron ore. Severstal acquired a 16.5 percent stake in Core, the company said in May 2010.

(Corrects Feb. 13 story to show project is in the Republic of Congo.)
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