According to Ivory Coast mines and energy minister Augustin Comoe, construction is to begin in 2014 on a new railway linking the west of the country with the port town of San Pedro, to boost production from nickel and iron mines in the region. “The west is overflowing with nickel, manganese and iron,” he told the press. “We’re looking to transport about 22 million metric tons of minerals a year.” The aim, he explains, is to boost the contribution of mining to the nation’s gross domestic product from 1.5% to 10% by 2020.
Infrastructure in the western region deteriorated following a 2002 armed conflict that split the country into a government-held south and rebel-controlled north.
The planned 737km railway will transport minerals to San Pedro from the Guinea and Liberian border regions. In addition it is expected to carry about 24,500 tons of timber annually and 45,000 tons of cocoa. Ivory Coast is said to be the world’s largest cocoa producer.
Studies prior to the outbreak of the conflict eight years ago estimated that the cost of building the proposed line would be about $US1.8 billion at that time.
The planned railway will run north-westwards to the town of Man, a former rebel-held town some 250km north of San Pedro. “There is no more conflict, elections are going ahead, so we are assuring investors it is now safe to begin exploiting minerals here,” minister Comoe says. (The Ivory Coast plans to hold elections on 31 October. )
Companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. and ArcelorMittal, which have operations in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, are potential investors in Ivory Coast, the minister says.
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