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Cameroon Laying Rails to Iron Mine

FILE: Representative illustration of railroad tracks. Taken Mar. 17, 2021.

YAOUNDE - Cameroon will begin construction in August of a railway line connecting its coast to a large iron ore deposit straddling its border with the Republic of Congo, Yaounde's interim mines minister said.

Construction for the railway linking the deposit in Nabeba to Cameroon's southern port town of Kribi is set to begin at the end of August in the town of Ntam, Cameroon's interim Mines Minister Fuh Calistus Gentry said late on Tuesday, after a meeting with mining officials in the Republic of Congo.

"Together we can demonstrate to the world the maturity of our two peoples to ensure that the Cameroon-Congo mining family lives on," he said.

The minister added that 12 new mining projects had been identified in Cameroon, five of which were scheduled to begin this year. He did not elaborate on the projects.

Cameroon in 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding to construct the 500 km rail link, with a capacity to carry 35 million tons of high-grade iron ore per year for a decade, with representatives of Aust-Sino Resources and Bestway Finance.

Bestway Finance is registered in Hong Kong. Mining company Aust-Sino is based in Australia, but some of its board members have close links to China, according to its website.

Australia's Sundance Resources has filed for international arbitration and billions of dollars in damages, saying Cameroon and the Republic of Congo violated contracts by developing the Mbalam-Nabeba project with Chinese investors.

The Republic of Congo revoked Sundance affiliate Congo Iron's permit for the Congo part of the project in December 2020 and awarded it to a little-known company Sangha Mining Development Sasu, which is backed by Bestway.

Mining has yet to start at Mbalam-Nabeba, which has an estimated 775 million tons of iron ore deposits.