Subsidiary of Swiss-based mining company Glencore, Sphere Minerals, has slowed down the development of its $900m Askaf iron ore project in Mauritania, due to a slump in the price of the metal.

Glencore-owned Sidero holds 88% of Sphere Minerals, which has a 79% share of the Askaf project, reports Bloomberg.

Production from the Askaf North project was planned to start by early 2017. Once developed, the mine is expected to have an annual yield around 7.5 million tonnes.

"Sphere Minerals awarded a $600m EPC contract to Essar Projects for a 7.5 million tonnes a year iron ore beneficiation plant." 

Sphere company secretary said: "Taking into account the time involved in this review, it is currently expected that the start of production will be delayed."

In April, the company approved a plan to increase the loan agreement with Glencore Australia Holdings to $186m in order to fund the project.

In May this year, Sphere Minerals awarded a $600m EPC contract to Essar Projects for a 7.5 million tonnes a year iron ore beneficiation plant.

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The scope of work included associated facilities, a primary crusher, secondary crusher, dry magnetic separator, high-pressure grinding rolls and auxiliary facilities.

Glencore has signed an initial agreement with the Government of Mauritania for railway and port support to the Askaf project.

In addition to Askaf, the mining firm has two other undeveloped iron ore projects in the pipeline in West Africa.