In the space of a few days, Rio Tinto and Fortescue have both given significant updates regarding their respective iron ore projects in Africa.
With first production expected in 2025, Rio revealed that 1.5 billion tonnes of the 2.8-billion-tonne mineral resource for blocks 3 and 4 of the Simandou mine in Guinea had been upgraded to ore reserves supporting a mine life of 26 years.
Rio shares in an 85 per cent stake in Simandou blocks 3 and 4 as part of the Simfer joint venture that also involves Chalco Iron Ore Holdings – a Chinalco-led joint venture of Chinese state-owned enterprises.
The Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea also comprises blocks 1 and 2 owned by the Guinea Government and a consortium called Winning Consortium Simandou.
The 1.5-billion-tonne ore reserve demonstrates average iron (Fe) grades of 65.3 per cent with low impurities. Rio Tinto expects its initial share of capital expenditure to build Simandou blocks 3 and 4 alongside associated rail and port infrastructure to be $US6.2 billion.
“We are continuing to work closely with the Government of Guinea, Chinalco, Baowu and WCS towards full sanction of this world-class project by all partners,” Rio Tinto executive committee lead for Guinea Bold Baatar said.
“Simandou will deliver a significant new source of high-grade iron ore that will strengthen Rio Tinto’s portfolio for the decarbonisation of the steel industry, along with trans-Guinean rail and port infrastructure that can make a significant contribution to the country’s economic development.”
Developing Simandou and its associated infrastructure will be the largest greenfield mine and infrastructure investment in Africa, involving more than 600km of new multi-use rail to support the export of up to 120 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of iron ore. Simandou blocks 3 and 4 alone are expected to produce 60Mtpa of iron ore.
As Rio develops Simandou, Fortescue announced this week that it had shipped its first product from the Belinga iron ore mine in Gabon.
The new milestone comes less than year after Fortescue and Ivindo Iron signed the mining convention for the project with the Gabonese Republic.
“This is a truly remarkable achievement by the team in such a short period of time and marks a key milestone in the early-stage mine development in Gabon,” Fortescue Metals chief executive officer Dino Otranto said.
“This project has the potential to revolutionise our portfolio and ultimately create a product that will be the envy of our peers. It will also open growth opportunities for Fortescue throughout Africa.
“This initial project phase is providing important insights that will help ensure we set this project up for future success. A major exploration drilling campaign is underway with the results continuing to show that this project has the potential to be significant scale and high-grade.”