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Legal action from Australia may threaten Cameroon-China joint project

Legal action from Australia may threaten Cameroon-China joint project
  • Cameroon to begin construction of railway line in August connecting coast to substantial iron ore deposit on Congo Republic border. 
  • Despite the legal dispute, Cameroon partners with China-affiliated businesses for the railway project. 
  • Cameroon identifies 12 new mining projects, with five scheduled to start this year.

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According to the interim mines minister of Cameroon, the country is set to begin the construction of a railway line in August to connect its coast to a sizable iron ore deposit that spans its border with the Congo Republic.

Despite being sued by Australia's Sundance Resources, Cameroon has agreed to build the railway with two China-affiliated businesses in June 2021. Sundance claims that by collaborating with Chinese investors to build the Mbalam-Nabeba project, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo broke contracts and sued for international arbitration and billions of dollars in damages.

Following a meeting with mining officials in Congo, Cameroon's acting mines minister, Fuh Calistus Gentry, announced late on Tuesday that construction for the railway connecting the deposit in Nabeba to the southern port city of Kribi would start at the end of August.

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"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 also mentioned that Cameroon has identified 12 new mining projects, five of which were slated to start this year. He didn't go into detail about the projects.

In 2021, representatives of Aust-Sino Resources and Bestway Finance signed an agreement with Cameroon to build a 500 km (310 miles) rail link with the ability to transport 35 million tonnes of high-grade iron ore annually for ten years.

Bestway Finance is a Hong Kong-based company. Despite having its headquarters in Australia, the mining business Aust-Sino's website claims that some of its board members are closely connected to China. Mbalam-Nabeba, which contains an estimated 775 million tonnes of iron ore resources, has not yet begun mining.

For the Congolese portion of the project, the Congo Republic withdrew the license held by Sundance subsidiary Congo Iron in December 2020 and granted it to obscure business Sangha Mining Development Sasu, financed by Bestway.

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