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    INTERVIEW-Sundance unit says to export Cameroon iron by 2011

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    By Tansa Musa

    YAOUNDE, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The Cameroon Iron Ore Company (CamIron), controlled by Australia's Sundance Resources , will export iron ore from its $2.46 billion Mbalam iron ore project by 2011, its general manager said on Thursday.

    Roger Bogne said feasibility studies and environmental assessments will be submitted before the end of February, and the company should reach a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government by March, paving the way for Cameroon to issue an exploitation permit.

    "We plan to start constructing project infrastructure by the beginning of next year and I can assure you that the first shipment to external markets of iron ore exploited in Cameroon will take place in 2011," Bogne told Reuters in an interview.

    "The project is well on course, there are no hitches."

    Officials at Cameroon's Ministry of Mines, Industries and Technological Development said, in anticipation of next month's signing, that Cameroon had set up a task force to draft the memorandum of understanding which spells out the terms of iron exploitation.

    CamIron was founded in 2005 to develop an area of 875 square km at Mbalam, 300 km from Yaounde in southeastern Cameroon. In 2006, Australian iron ore miner Sundance Resources Limited acquired 90 percent of its shares.

    The iron ore deposits were discovered between 1976 and 1984 by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDF) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

    Cameroon's Ministry of Mines, Industries and Technological Development estimates CamIron's exploration area contains iron deposits of between 800 million and 1 billion tonnes, including 218 million tonnes of high grade ore.

    Sundance said an October 2006 study indicated the area had the potential to be developed into a very large, low-cost producer of high grade ore.

    "The government of Cameroon attaches great importance to this project ... given its capacity to produce 35 million tonnes of iron ore a year over a period of 20 years," Mines, Industries and Technological Development Minister Badel Ndinga Ndanga said last week, urging CamIron to press ahead quickly.

    The Mbalam project involves the development of a mine, crushing and screening plant, and stockpiling facilities.

    A 470-km long railway line will be constructed to link Mbalam to the Atlantic coast at Logbabe, where a deep-sea export terminal will be developed to handle large ocean-going vessels.

    This infrastructure is also expected to open the way into remote southeastern Cameroon for other investors and boost tourism in a region rich in wildlife, particularly western lowland gorillas.

    (Writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Chris Johnson) (([email protected]; +221 864 5076; Reuters messaging: [email protected], Dakar Newsroom +221 33 864 5076))


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