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Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has signed a mining convention with the Gabonese Republic for its Belinga iron-ore project.

Signed by FMG’s incorporated joint venture company Ivindo Iron SA (Ivindo Iron), the convention governs all the fiscal, legal, and regulatory rules for the 4,500km² area, which comprises the Belinga Project.

With plans to undertake the first mining at the project during the second half of this year, Fortescue expects the convention to unlock growth opportunities for the firm throughout Africa.

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 using our major industrial scale and expertise to assist heavy industry combat climate change.

“Geological mapping and sampling programmes 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.”

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Fortescue said the Belinga project requires a $200m capital investment for the early-stage operation. This investment would take place over 2023/2024.

The project will involve a conventional open pit operation. Ore from the mine will be trucked and railed over existing infrastructure.

It will be then shipped from the Owendo Mineral Port, near Libreville.

The project operated by Ivindo Iron is 90% held by the Belinga joint venture (JV) company, which in turn is 80% held by Fortescue and 20% by its JV partner, the African Transformation and Industrialization Fund.

Fortescue owns an 80% stake in Ivindo Iron, which is the operating entity for the Belinga project. Africa Transformation and Industrialization Fund (ATIF) holds the remaining 20% stake.

According to the Gabon Mining Code, the government will receive 10% of free carry interest in the JV company, Ivindo Iron.