Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group announced that its majority-owned joint venture (JV), Ivindo Iron, has signed an exploration agreement with the Gabon Government for the Belinga iron ore project.

The agreement comprises key commercial and legal terms for the exploration of the Belinga project, allowing the grant of exploration licences to the JV for a 4,500km² area.

Fortescue said the agreement also envisages a $90m exploration programme at the Belinga iron ore project, over a period of three years.

Fortescue Metals owns an 80% stake in Ivindo Iron while the remaining 20% is held by the Africa Transformation and Industrialisation Fund, an Africa-focused investment fund.

According to the Gabon Mining Code, the government will receive a 10% free carry interest in Ivindo Iron, upon the grant of the exploitation licences.

On securing the licences, Ivindo Iron will start exploration and studies on the project. The exploration work will initially focus on determining the Belinga iron ore deposit’s potential size and grade, as well as assessing logistics solutions.

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By GlobalData

Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines said: “Fortescue is committed to its strategic pillars of investing in the long-term sustainability of the iron ore business and investing in growth. Consistent with this approach, Fortescue is pursuing global opportunities in iron ore that align with our strategy and expertise.

“We welcome the opportunity to assess the Belinga Project, which we believe is potentially one of the world’s largest undeveloped, high-grade hematite deposits.”

Located in north-eastern Gabon, the Belinga deposit was discovered in 1955 and was subject to exploration in the 1970s, which resulted in the identification of high iron and low contaminant mineralisation.

Gabon Minister of Mines Elvis Ossindji said: “Holding a priority position in our country’s transformation and economy diversification strategy, this project has witnessed an acceleration in order to create added value and hundreds of jobs in our country.

“The culmination of the Belinga iron project with the Australian mining company Fortescue Metals Group and ATIF aims to strengthen the mining sector’s contribution to a thriving economy while making Gabon a benchmark mining destination.”