Fortescue has entered into an agreement with the Gabon Government to study the potential of the Belinga iron ore project in the African nation.
The major mining company will be granted a 36-month exclusivity period to access an area spanning approximately 5500 square kilometres, with initial priorities to complete exploration works and scope the potential size and grade of Belinga.
A separate Gabon mining company will be established to hold the mining tenure of Belinga, as part of an incorporated joint venture 80 per cent owned by Fortescue and 20 per cent owned by the Africa Transformation and Industrialisation Fund.
Fortescue chief executive officer Elizabeth Gaines said the new venture comes as part of the company’s continued strategy to expand its iron ore business.
“Consistent with our active business development and exploration programs, Fortescue is pursuing global opportunities in iron ore that align with our strategy and expertise,” Gaines said.
“We look forward to working with the Gabon Government on this project as we continue to invest in assets to optimise growth and returns in our iron ore business.”
Fortescue has been assessing Belinga since 2018, with the project potentially one of the world’s largest undeveloped, high-grade hematite deposits.
Fortescue chairman and founder Andrew Forrest said Belinga not only has the capability to enhance his company’s iron ore portfolio but could also prove influential in Gabon’s economic evolution.
Gabon’s Minister for Petroleum, Gas, Hydrocarbons and Mines, Vincent de Paul Massassa, echoed Forrest sentiments.
“This is a highly significant announcement for the future growth and development of our economy,” de Paul Massassa said.
“We know that the Belinga deposit is one of the world’s largest high grade iron ore deposits and the opportunity to work with an established mining company with the track record and reputation of Fortescue will allow us to fully explore the potential that we know exists in the project.”
It comes after Gaines stepped down as chief executive officer of Fortescue last week, with a new CEO to be appointed as the company continues its green transformation.
The Fortescue board has commenced its extensive global search, whereby successful candidates will share in Fortescue’s vision of transitioning from a pure-play iron ore producer to diversified renewable energy and resources major.