ABIDJAN, March 7 (Reuters) - India's Tata Steel will seek to form a consortium to finance construction of a railway line from its iron concessions in western Ivory Coast to the port of San Pedro, the head of the company's Ivorian subsidiary said on Thursday.
Tata is currently finalising exploration and feasibility studies for its Mt. Nimba and Mt. Gao concessions and plans to invest around $1 billion to develop the two deposits.
"A railway line is definitely required for this kind of project, because it is a large project," said M C Thomas, head of Tata Steel Cote d'Ivoire, following a meeting with Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan.
"But as we explained to the prime minister, there are many operators who can come together to create a railway line. We are interested in that kind of a project," Thomas said.
Mt. Nimba, believed to be one of West Africa's largest iron ore deposits, straddles the borders between Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
It lies more than 200 km (130 miles) inland from San Pedro, Ivory Coast's second port, which will also require modification to accommodate ore shipments, Thomas said.
Tata currently holds exploration rights to Mt. Nimba and Mt. Gao through its 75 percent stake in a joint venture with state miner SODEMI.
It plans to use the ore mined in Ivory Coast to supply steel mills in the UK and the Netherlands operated by its subsidiary Tata Steel UK, the second-largest steel producer in Europe.