NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Mauritania's national iron ore mining company SNIM aims to produce 13 million tonnes in 2014, around the same level as last year, the majority state-owned firm said.
Production from the mine in the northern desert town of Zouerate hit 6.7 million tonnes in the first six months of this year, up 8.5 percent from the same stage in 2013, the company said in a statement.
The Mauritanian state holds a 78.35 percent stake in SNIM and last year exports from the project accounted for some 17 percent of government revenue in the desert nation.
Other shareholders include the Industrial Bank of Kuwait, Arab Mining Company and the Iraqi Fund for Foreign Development.
Employees proudly call their company the lung of the nation's economy and the train that transports ore to the coast stretches some two km, making it one of the world's longest.
However, SNIM has seen demand from its main European market, which used to account for around 75 percent of exports, plummet since the 2008 financial crisis.
As a result, SNIM has developed a new iron ore product called TZFC, which has a silica content deemed too high for European markets but is popular in China.
In 2013, SNIM said it exported 9.91 million tonnes of iron ore to China, comprising 76 percent of all exports last year. Much of this was its TZFC product.
SNIM said in June that it had finalised a deal with Glencore to exploit the nearby Askaf mine which will share access to existing rail, port and storage facilities during an 18-year period once production begins.
Glencore said in its last annual report it was assessing two iron ore projects in the country, Askaf and another called El Aouj, which it said had the potential to produce at least 22.5 million tonnes per year.
Mauritania has reserves of iron ore, copper and gold and mining firms Kinross Gold Corp and First Quantum are already active there.
Reporting by Joe Penney; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Daniel Flynn and David Evans