* Expects permit by year-end or early 2013
* Aims to be Africa's top alumina refinery
By Tansa MusaYAOUNDE, July 6 (Reuters) - More than three years on and a $4.3 billion project to build a bauxite mining and alumina refinery in Cameroon is still waiting for a mining permit, a company executive said on Friday.
India's Hindalco, Dubai Aluminium Company (Dubal) and Hydromine Inc announced plans for their Cameroon Alumina Ltd (CAL) joint venture in 2008.
The project plans to tap bauxite reserves at Minim-Martap and Ngaoundal deposits in the Adamawa region of northern Cameroon.
"The kick-off of our project is so far delayed because we don't yet have a mining permit," CAL Deputy General Manager Joel Sinquin, told Reuters in an interview.
"We are pushing negotiations with the government and our hope is to be granted the licence as soon as possible, maybe before the end of this year or early next year."
CAL had aimed to produce 4.5 to 9 million tonnes of bauxite per year starting in late 2014. Sinquin said the company now expects to start building the refinery in 2015 and start commercial production in 2018.
The alumina refinery, with a capacity of 1.4 to 3 million tonnes, would be only Africa's second alumina refinery. Rusal operates one in Guinea.
"We are planning an annual production of 1.5 million tonnes of alumina per annum, doubling the continent's current lone producer in Guinea-Conakry which produces about 700,000 tonnes a year," Sinquin said.
"That is at least the first two to three years, after which it will go up to 3 million tonnes per year," Sinquin said.
Alumina is the raw material for the production of aluminium which is used in the manufacturing of vehicles, aircrafts, and domestic products.
"Once we obtain the mining licence, it will take two years of a detailed study at the site and three years after to construct the refinery before mining of the bauxite begins," Sinquin said.
Sinquin said the government may be taking a longer time to go through the project's feasibility study because of the size of the project, and may also be seeking guarantees to ensure that commercial production will indeed begin once the mining licence was granted.
Cameroonian authorities were not available for immediate comment.
However, the central African nation, though seeking to boost investments in its under-explored mineral resources, has made changes to its mining code, insisting that projects must show adequate finances before obtaining a permit.
Sinquin said funding the CAL's alumina project was not an issue given the financial solidity of the companies involved in the joint venture.
According to the country's mining laws, Cameroon's president, Paul Biya, must give the final approval for all mining projects. (Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Jason Neely)