Anglo American and Kumba Iron Ore have agreed to fund exploration firm Ferrex's Mebaga iron-ore project in Gabon.
Under a binding term sheet agreement, Anglo and Kumba will fund the exploration of Mebaga and its surrounding areas for up to two years.
The deal includes a provision to refund Ferrex for most of the exploration spending to date.
Anglo and Kumba will manage the exploration work and may also move to 100% ownership of the project.
Ferrex managing director Dave Reeves said the agreement represents a significant milestone for the company.
"We believe Mebaga has significant value uplift potential, highlighted by the exploration target of 90mt-150mt at 35-65% iron and 550mt-900mt at 25%-40% iron defined over an 8km strike length of a total 19km strike identified at the project," Reeves said.
"With Anglo American managing the project utilising our highly-experienced in-country team, Mebaga will benefit from leading technical expertise whilst maximising the exploration work undertaken, providing Ferrex with access to substantial value accretion whilst minimising exposure to exploration expenditure."
Due diligence is targeted for completion in February 2014, when the full commercial terms of the agreement will be revealed.
Ferrex has completed a diamond drill programme and is planning a drill exploration programme in 2014, to identify the real potential of Mebaga.
Ferrex also holds the Malelane iron ore concession in eastern South Africa.