Guinea's Simandou iron ore trove: huge potential for the hugely patient
* Legal wrangles, delays mean no ore yet mined from huge deposit
* Price tag of development project estimated at $20 billion
* Needs 650 km of railway, 35 bridges, and 24 km of tunnels
* Rio Tinto, Vale, Israeli billionaire in legal rights wrangle
By Saliou Samb
BEYLA, Guinea, Aug 5 (Reuters) - In a remote, southeastern corner of Guinea, the mist-shrouded Simandou mountain range rises above the lush forest. Buried under its green slopes lies some of the planet's finest iron ore, a treasure long coveted by the world's mining giants.
But any profit, for Guinea or the firms, will remain locked in the russet ground until an export outlet to the coast is cleared, a task that will involve building 650 kilometres (400 miles) of railway, 35 bridges, and 24 km of tunnels.
Coupled with the need for a new port to load the ore onto ships, the initial price tag would be around $20 billion, making it Africa's biggest mining project ever, to be carried out in one of the continent's most unstable and rundown nations.
"The logistical challenge is such that the whole project remains on hold until the infrastructure can be put in place to get the ore out," said Madani Dia, a Guinean mining analyst. Continuación...