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Major Rio Tinto announced that the Simandou Joint Venture (JV) partners had concluded key agreements with the Republic of Guinea and the Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS) on the trans-Guinean infrastructure for the Simandou iron-ore project.

The Simfer JV comprises Simfer SA, which holds the Simandou South Blocks 3 and 4, which is 15% held by the government of Guinea and 85% held by Simfer Jersey. Simfer Jersey, in turn, is 53% held by Rio and 47% by Chalco Iron Ore Holdings.

Rio said on Friday that the co-development convention signed with the Republic of Guinea and associated agreements adjusting the Simfer and WCS’s existing mine conventions created the legal framework for the co-development of more than 600 km of new multi-use rail together with port facilities, that will be used to export iron-ore from the Simandou mining concessions in the southeast of the country.

“With these agreements we have reached an important milestone towards full sanction of the Simandou project, bringing together the complementary strengths and expertise of Rio Tinto and our partners, the government of Guinea and WCS, for the infrastructure that will unlock this world class resource,” Rio copper chief and executive committee lead for Guinea Bold Baatar said.

“Simandou, the world’s largest known undeveloped supply of high-grade, low-impurity iron-ore, will strengthen Rio Tinto’s portfolio by complementing our existing Pilbara and Iron Ore Company of Canada products.”

The infrastructure capacity and associated cost will be shared equally between Simfer, which is developing blocks 3 and 4 of the Simandou project, and WCS, which is developing blocks 1 and 2.

China Baowu Steel Group has also previously entered into a term sheet agreement with WCS that may see it partner in the WCS scope for blocks 1 and 2 of the Simandou mining concession and the infrastructure JV.

The co-development convention requires ratification by the Guinean State. It is also subject to a number of conditions, including the Guinean State’s approval of the final feasibility study for the project.

Rio told shareholders that negotiations were continuing between the partners to finalise the investment agreements and related shareholders’ agreements which underpin the co-development.

Critical path works continue to be progressed by the partners to ensure progress is maximised during the 2023/24 dry season.