US-based Ayr Logistics, which is building a $5,5-billion oil refinery in northern Mozambique, said on Friday it would spend $80-million to turn a nearby airbase into a commercial airport.

“We are going to rehabilitate the Nacala airport so that we can start commercial aviation as well as private cargo handling,” Ayr Logistics General Director Philip Harris told Reuters.

“Estimates indicate an investment of $80-million, which will wholly come from Ayr Logistics Ltd,” he said, adding his company had already reached an agreement with government. He did not specify when the project would be completed.

Ayr Logistics signed a deal for the construction of its refinery in Nacala-a-Velha in the northern Nampula province last year. The plant will have capacity of more than 300,000 barrels of fuel a day and will employ 1,000 people.

The first production of refined fuels from this project is expected in 2010, and the bulk of the product will be exported to neighboring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Mozambique was one of the world’s poorest countries when its 17-year civil war ended in 1992, but has had one of the fastest growing economies in southern Africa in the past decade.