China has formally created a state-backed iron ore company that’s expected to oversee everything from massive mine investments in West Africa to buying the steelmaking material from global suppliers.
A company called China Mineral Resources Group was established Tuesday with a registered capital of 20 billion yuan ($3 billion), according to data from Chinese company registration service Tianyancha. The company’s business scope covers activities including mining, ore processing and trading agent, the data showed.
Top leaders in Beijing have backed the creation of a new company to assume broad responsibility for raw materials supplies to the country’s sprawling steel industry, by far the world’s biggest, people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg earlier, asking not to be identified as the information is private.
Yao Lin, former chairman of Aluminum Corp. of China, and Guo Bin, executive vice president of China Baowu Steel Group Co., were to lead the new group, the people familiar said. The new registration on Tianyancha lists a Yao Lin as chairman and a Guo Bin as general manager, without giving further biographical information.
The establishment of the company marks China’s biggest effort yet to tackle what its officials have long argued is the excessive pricing power wielded by miners including BHP Group Ltd. and Rio Tinto Plc. China spent about $180 billion on iron ore imports last year.
The new entity will house outbound investments such as the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, seen by China’s leaders as the best route to ease the steel industry’s reliance on Australian ore, said the people. It will also ideally become the sole channel for buying imported iron ore from third parties, most of which comes from either Australia or Brazil.
Bloomberg reported in February that China was planning a centralized purchasing platform for iron ore imports. The plan has been under consideration for years with the backing of senior leaders, the people said. At the very least, it will be a vehicle to consolidate several overseas iron ore investments including Simandou, as well as raw materials purchasing for a handful of China’s biggest state-owned steelmakers.
China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and National Development and Reform Commission didn’t immediately reply to faxed requests for comment.
The development of Simandou in Guinea has repeatedly been delayed by legal disputes and government changes in the African nation. The reserve holds one of the world’s largest untapped reserves of iron ore and is divided into four blocks, with 1 and 2 controlled by the consortium backed by Chinese and Singaporean companies, while Rio Tinto and a joint venture between Chinalco and Baowu own blocks 3 and 4.