Rio hopes raised on stalled Guinea mine

Rio Tinto appears set to find a more flexible attitude from the government of Guinea this week when the two parties meet for talks over the stalled Simandou iron ore project.

Rio Tinto appears set to find a more flexible attitude from the government of Guinea this week when the two parties meet for talks over the stalled Simandou iron ore project.

The Guinean government set the tone for the meeting at the weekend when it revealed a willingness to allow a third party to build the railway for the giant iron ore project, which could cost up to $US20 billion ($20.88 billion).

The comments by Guinean President Alpha Conde could help advance the project, which has been delayed by Guinea's inability to secure finance to cover its share of costs.

"What's important to us is that the railway is built, so we're open to any solution that allows the construction of the railway," Mr Conde said. "We are open to a partner financing 51 per cent or all of it; that depends on the agreement we have with Rio Tinto."

The project has been frozen for several months as Guinea struggles to secure funding for its share, and while Rio completes a major cost-cutting and divestment program.

Just last week, another Guinean minister revealed that Rio would not have the mine in production by 2015 as planned.

Rio's partners in Simandou include Chinese state-owned enterprise Chalco, and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh participated in a summit involving British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday, when he called for pro-growth policies in the developing world, and pledged support to the new transparency laws for the resources sector that were recently passed by the European Union.

The laws will increase disclosure levels around payments that mining, oil and gas companies make to governments on a "project by project" basis.

Mr Walsh's support came despite Rio and seven other big resources companies (Xstrata, BHP Billiton, Total, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, BG and Anglo American) campaigning against "project by project" reporting on the grounds it would not be effective.

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