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The state-owned China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export company has been selected by the West African state of Gabon to mine its vast iron ore deposits – believed to be the biggest in the world - at Belinga, deep in dense forest in the north-east of the country. A $US3 billion investment is envisaged, which includes the building of a 560km railway to Santa Clara near capital city Libreville on the Atlantic coast. A new port is to be constructed for bulk handling as well as container traffic, and two hydro-electric power stations are to be erected. Finance is to be routed through the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China. A Reuters writer comments: “African governments like the no-strings-attached approach of the Chinese, who offer aid or loans not linked to demands for good governance, transparency or improvements in human rights - the western recipe for development packages.” Reuters quote a government adviser who accompanied Gabonese President Omar Bongo on a visit to Beijing saying: "When the Chinese come they can provide financing, without a lot of stringsor moralising." [ Gabon’s existing railway, 1,435mm gauge, runs from Libreville to Franceville in the south-east, near the border with Congo-+Brazzaville. Cook’s Overseas Timetable gives its length as 670km; Jane’s World Railways says 814km. Take your pick. - editor
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