In line with its Strategic Plan for an Emerging Gabon (SPEG), the Gabon government in September transferred its 28.45% stake in French mining company Eramet’s Gabon-based subsidiary, Compagnie Minière de l’Ogooué Comilog Société Equatoriale des Mines (Comilog), to the Gabon State-owned mining company Société Équatoriale des Mines (SEM).
SEM states that this ownership transfer strengthens the partnership between Gabon and Eramet.
“This decision is consistent with the strategy contained in the SPEG, which was designed by Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba in 2012,” says Mines, Industry and Tourism Minister Regis Immongault.
The SPEG seeks to accelerate the diversification of Gabon’s national economy through the local processing of raw materials and facilitation of foreign direct investment.
The strategy was reiterated at last year’s national industry forum, which took place in April 2013, at the Gabon-China Friendship Stadium, in Libreville.
“As an organisation under the technical supervision of the Ministry of Mines, SEM will manage the shares of the government in the sector,” explains Immongault, adding that the new configuration will enable the Ministry to focus on its main missions, which include designing the mining policy; granting mining permits; promoting, regulating and controlling the mining sector; and implementing the strategy for processing mineral resources.
Immongault further points out that the SPEG assigns SEM with operational missions, including owning and managing its shares in mining companies on behalf of the government and developing mining permits on its own, or in partnership with operators.
He also highlights that the reorganisation of the shareholding in Comilog is aimed at reinforcing the role of government, through SEM, as the strategic partner of mining companies in the development of the Gabon mining sector,
with a view to increase the contribution of the mining industry to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to the same level as hydrocarbons.
Immongault notes that, in 2013, the mining sector’s GDP contribution was 6%, while hydrocarbons contributed 46%.
He further points out that the SPEG is also an objective included in Gabon’s National Strategy for Industrialisation, which maps out the economic diversification of the country.
Immongault says transferring these shares is a new step in the development of the long-term partnership between the Gabon government and Eramet.
“Comilog is an example of the successful private–public partnership in a highly strategic sector. The objective of SEM is to contribute to the development of Comilog’s activities in an efficient manner,” says SEM CEO Fabrice Nze-Bekale.
Comilog started operations at the $300-million Moanda Metallurgical Complex (MMC), in Gabon’s Haut Ogooué province, in August 2013.
MMC comprises two plants, including a pyrometallurgical plant that processes 65 000 t/y of silicomanganese, which is already operational, and a 20 000 t/y hydrometallurgical plant, which was scheduled to start operating last month.
MMC’s activities required the Gabon government to build the $400-million 160 MW Grand Poubara hydroelectric dam along the Ogooue river, which is about 15 km from Franceville, to provide sufficient electricity for the site.
The hydroelectric project was completed in September 2013 on an engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) basis by Chinese EPC contractor PowerChina’s subsidiary, Sinohydro Corporation.
Nze-Bekale points out that another major development of the partnership between the Gabon government and Eramet is the construction – through a private–public partnership – of the Moanda School of Mining and Metallurgy, which is being developed to meet the mining industry’s demand for skilled labour.
Construction of Moanda’s School of Mining and Metallurgy started in October 2012. The school is scheduled to open officially in 2016 to train advanced technicians and engineers.