Fortescue Metals Group, through its incorporated JV company Ivindo Iron SA, has signed the Mining Convention for the Belinga iron ore project in Gabon with the Gabonese Republic, paving the way for first mining to begin in the second half of 2023.
This will open growth opportunities for Fortescue Metals and Fortescue Future Industries throughout Africa, according to the ASX-listed company.
The Mining Convention governs all the legal, fiscal and regulatory regimes for the 4,500 sq.km, which comprises the Belinga project, including early development for production of up to 2 Mt/y, while studies advance potential designs of a large-scale development.
Fortescue Founder and Executive Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest, said: “The Gabonese Republic chose Fortescue to develop Belinga not only due to our strong track record of delivering major projects, but due also to our company-wide commitment to use our major industrial scale and expertise to assist heavy industry combat climate change.
“Geological mapping and sampling programs have confirmed our initial thoughts that this new West African iron ore hub may well one day prove to be among the largest in the world. The key aspect of this particular geology is its potential to dovetail with Fortescue Pilbara ore
blends. In doing so it will preserve and enhance the iron ore industry of both Australia and Gabon.
“We have enjoyed strong support and positive feedback from local communities. We will continue to work together to maintain Fortescue’s highest standards of environmental and community consultation.”
The capital estimate for the early stage mining development is approximately $200 million (100% basis) with investment over 2023-24. The development involves conventional open-pit mining methods to produce the ore which will be trucked and railed over existing roads and rail infrastructure, and will be shipped from the Owendo Mineral Port, near Libreville.
Ivindo Iron is the operating entity for Belinga. It is held 90% by the Belinga JV company, established by Fortescue (80% interest) and its joint venture partner, the Africa Transformation and Industrialization Fund (20%). In accordance with the Gabon Mining Code, the Gabon Government will have a free carry interest of 10% in Ivindo Iron.
The Belinga deposit was initially discovered in 1955, and subsequent exploration in the 1970s identified high iron and low contaminant mineralisation. The deposit sits in Archean aged rocks of the Congo Craton. The lithology and structure are typical of other greenstone belts that commonly host banded iron formations and itabirites found in other parts of West Africa such as the Simandou project, Fortescue says. The Belinga geology and iron ore potential is similar in scale as Simandou in its early stages of exploration, with its multi-billion tonne potential and high grades, the company added.
Belinga has been progressively assessed by Fortescue since 2018.