Brussels: ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, is in talks with miner BHP Billiton to combine their iron ore assets in Guinea and Liberia in a joint venture.
ArcelorMittal said in a statement on Tuesday that the companies’ iron ore interests were close to each other’s and could be significantly more competitive if brought together.
The two would assess the merits of a partnership in coordination with the governments involved in the coming months.
ArcelorMittal’s iron ore assets straddle the border between Guinea and Liberia. Its mining there is in the process of being revived since the end of the civil war in Liberia, but is not currently active. It expects first shipping in 2011.
Neither ArcelorMittal nor BHP, the world’s largest mining group, would specify the size of their deposits.
Rio Tinto and BHP -- the world’s second and third biggest iron ore producers respectively -- last month signed a $116 billion iron ore joint venture agreement to combine their Western Australian iron ore operations.
Brazil’s Vale is the world’s top iron ore miner.
ArcelorMittal has been pushing to increase its self-sufficiency in iron ore in recent years. The African venture would be its first combination of iron ore assets.
It said in the second half of last year that it planned to reinitiate some projects to capture growth in emerging markets and to continue to expand into mining.