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BHP Closing In On A$3.5 Billion Gabon Iron Ore Deal - Report

MELBOURNE -(Dow Jones)- BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) is close to striking a A$3.5 billion deal with the government of Gabon over the Belinga iron ore project, which is said to contain about 4 billion metric tons of ore, the Australian newspaper reported Wednesday without citing a source for the information. A deal would represent BHP's most significant foray into Africa's emerging iron ore sector, which has already attracted rivals Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) and Vale SA (VALE) as well as a host of junior exploration companies, the newspaper said in an article on its website. It reported that BHP has so far declined to comment. News agency Reuters in an article Friday cited Sosthene Nguema Nguema, a member of Gabonese government delegation in charge of overseeing the Belinga project, as saying a deal with BHP had been reached after the concession had been removed from China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corp., as the Chinese company didn't have sufficient expertise to mine the resource. Newspaper website: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mergers-acquisitions/giant-poised-to-take-35bn-african-plunge/story-fn91vdzj-1226265157070 -By Melbourne bureau; +61 3 9292 2094; djnews.sydney@dowjones.com

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