Republic of Gabon Minister of Mines, the Hon. Elvis Stessy Ossindji Binou told those gathered for his presentation at Africa Downunder that the country’s delegation in Perth had the clear objective of attracting further foreign investment in Gabon’s mineral resources sector.
Minister Ossindji Binou pointed to the country’s implementation of new regulations that he said were both comprehensive and favourable for foreign investments, but also involved a “real balancing between the expectations of each stakeholder”.
And, the Minister has a strong recent track record in attracting significant investments, including from Australian iron ore major Fortescue Metals Group.
In August, Fortescue signed the Exploration Convention for the Belinga Iron Ore Project with the Gabonese Government.
The Exploration Convention contains the key commercial and legal terms for the exploration of the Belinga Project and enables the grant of exploration licenses covering approximately 4,500 square kilometres, where Fortescue envisaged an exploration works program of approximately US$90 million over three years.
Commenting at the time of the deal, Minister Ossindji Binou said Fortescue’s investment held a priority position in Gabon’s transformation and economic diversification strategy and would help make Gabon a benchmark mining destination.
Another iron ore hopeful who has also recognised the potential of the central African country, with existing port infrastructure on the Atlantic coast, is Genmin Limited, which first pegged ground in Gabon back in 2012. That first license now contains the company’s flagship Baniaka iron ore project.
The current focus of mineral production in Gabon is on manganese, and some gold, with historic production of uranium also on the books.
“The Gabonese Republic also intends to mobilise the large-scale infrastructure which already exists in the country to support the development of its mining sector,” Minister Ossindji Binou’s said.
“The true back bone of our industry is a 700-kilometre-long railway crossing the country from west to east, which can connect the most remote area of the country to deep water ports.”
Genmin Managing Director and CEO Joe Ariti followed Minister Ossindji Binou’s presentation on day two of the event in Perth and said he expected the company to pioneer iron ore mining in Gabon.
Baniaka is located in the south east of the country near the provincial capital of Franceville. The project has a Mineral Resource of 700 million tonnes and is currently subject to both commercial feasibility and a social and environmental impact assessment for an initial 5 million tonne per annum mining operation.
“We expect to announce our preliminary feasibility study results at the end of September and to have completed the SEIA at the end of this year,” Mr Ariti said.
“Our iron ore occurs at surface, as free-dig unconsolidated gravels, and following extensive pilot plant metallurgical test work, we expect to produce high grade hematite lump and fines.
“We will pivot project development through existing logistics infrastructure and clean renewable hydro-power, enabling us to differentiate ourselves in the market not only as high-grade hematite, but also as a provider of greener iron ore.”