Aspire Mining has extended a major strategic partnership to deliver coking coal from the Ovoot project to customers. Noble Group signed a strategic alliance with Aspire in November 2011 and has now agreed to extend its support by providing an underlying supply chain management system.

This will provide access to Noble’s Russian Far East port, providing marketing support and committing to fund 10% of the pre-development capital for Northern Railways.

The agreement will also see Noble assist with the Northern Railways financing plan, funding 10% of the Erdenet to Ovoot railway, a two-year US$5 million loan for the pre-development expenditures and increasing its stake in Aspire by 35 million shares for Aus$2.8 million. A Noble representative will also be appointed to the Aspire Board.

Aspire’s managing director David Paull says, “This package of initiatives demonstrates the company’s excellent working relationship with the Noble Group as well as Noble’s commitment to the successful development of the Ovoot Coking Coal Project.”

Ovoot is in northern Mongolia and Aspire says the key to its development is access to seaborne markets and Noble’s recent acquisition of an interest in a Russian Far East port will greatly benefit the delivery of coking coal to export markets.

Revision of the February 2012 feasibility study into the Northern Rail Line is expected to be announced this quarter and will detail operating and capital costs for a phased construction and capacity upgrade investments.

If Northern Railways is successful in being awarded the rail concession for the Erdenet to Ovoot rail line by the Mongolian Government, Noble will also have the option of acquiring a 10% equity holding in the company and can fund 10% of the project’s development. The agreement is yet to be approved by shareholders.

Noble manages the supply chain of agricultural and energy products, metals and minerals throughout 140 locations.

A review of the pre-feasibility study for Ovoot was completed in December 2012. Aspire has planned a large-scale open pit mining operation, with annual production capacity of 10-12 million tonnes, beginning in early 2016.

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