PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner BHP Billiton could soon finalise a mining convention with the government of Gabon for the development of a manganese operation, Mines Minister Regis Immongault said on Tuesday.
He told Mining Weekly Online that government officials would meet with BHP Billiton representatives on April 16 to finalise the details of the mining convention.
Immongault noted that while much of the convention had already been decided upon, the parties still had to confirm the use of railway capacity for the project.
A spokesperson for BHP Billiton said on Tuesday that the company was unable to comment at this stage, but added that the project was at an advanced stage of feasibility.
It has previously been reported that the Gabon mine would be a 300 000 t/y operation, with a resource to support an estimated 50-year life-of-mine.
Immongault told the Australia Africa Business Council (AABC) that Gabon would overtake South Africa as the world’s largest manganese producer by 2015, producing some 5.7-million tons of manganese a year.
While oil was currently considered to be Gabon’s major mineral resource, with some 3.7-billion barrels of proven reserves, Immongault noted that the government was looking to diversify natural resources exploitation, with particular focus on manganese, precious metals, and rare earths.
He told the AABC that more than 900 mineral indications had been inventoried in Gabon, including iron-ore, gold, diamonds, uranium, phosphate, zinc, potash and platinum.
“There are many opportunities for mining projects for Australian investors, and we would like to see them engage in the rational exploitation [of mineral resources],” he said.
The government was also in the process of finalising the revision of the mining code aimed at increasing foreign direct investment in the resources sector. Immongault said that the code, which would be finalised before the end of the year, contained measures to induce good governance, fiscal stability, and nondiscrimination.
“Gabon presents huge advantages to attract and secure foreign direct investment, including political stability, support sectors like banking, telecoms and energy, and established infrastructure,” Immongault said.
He noted that Gabon’s macroeconomic framework was also stable, with Standard & Poor’s giving the country a BB- rating, with stable prospects.