UPDATE 1-Guinea Simandou rights auction to start within months - minister
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By Silvia Antonioli
CAPE TOWN, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Guinea expects to start an auction of the mining rights to half of one of the world's largest untapped iron ore resources in the next two months irrespective of arbitration with previous holder BSG Resources (BSGR), the country's mining minister said.
BSGR, a unit of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz's business conglomerate, was stripped of its license to develop part of the Simandou deposit following a Guinean investigation. The company is seeking arbitration and has threatened to sue companies that invest in its former license area.
"We are completing the documents for the auction. I believe that these documents will be ready in the next two months," minister Kerfalla Yansane told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba conference in South Africa.
"There is no link between the arbitration and the auction. These assets belong to the government."
Miner Rio Tinto holds the right to develop the southern half of the deposit, which could produce about 100 million tonnes of iron ore a year, or just below 10 percent of the global seaborne iron ore market.
In the northern half, the government took back mining concessions from BSGR and its Brazilian partner Vale after a government panel said in a report it had found BSGR got the rights from the previous administration through "corruption". Continuación...