The National Transition Council of Guinea has ratified a joint development agreement for the Simandou iron ore project, which is poised to become the world’s largest and highest-grade new source of iron ore, according to a Reuters report.

This approval marks a significant step forward for the project after years of complex negotiations and delays.

The Simandou project has faced numerous challenges including a complicated ownership structure, legal disputes, political changes in Guinea and construction difficulties.

However, the recent ratification by the lawmaking body signals progress towards the project’s anticipated completion by the end of 2024, according to the council’s spokesperson, Mory Dounoh.

Rio Tinto, through its Simfer joint venture with China’s Chalco Iron Ore Holdings and the Guinean Government, controls two of the four mining blocks within the Simandou range.

Rio Tinto has a 53% stake in the venture, with Chalco Iron Ore Holdings owning the remainder.

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By GlobalData

The remaining two blocks are under the development of Winning Consortium Simandou, which includes Winning International Group, China Hongqiao Group unit Weiqiao Aluminium and United Mining Suppliers.

Last month, China Baowu Steel Group (Baowu) obtained 10bn yuan ($1.4bn) via a bond issue, a major chunk of which will be used to fund the Simandou project.

Around 70% of the capital raised has been earmarked to develop Simandou’s northern blocks.

The complete Simandou project is expected to start operations in 2026.

In 2023, Rio Tinto’s Guinea unit signed a non-binding term sheet with Baowu to construct the project’s infrastructure.