Ausenco has secured a front end engineering and design (FEED) contract for the second phase expansion of African Minerals‘ Tonkolili iron ore project in Sierra Leone.

Ausenco will establish the flowsheet and design parameters for the first phase two concentrator, with an expected design output of about ten million tonnes a year, from the results of the current on-site pilot plant work undertaken by the mine.

Ausenco’s scope of work will also include the raw water and tailings dam design and the power supply requirements.

African Minerals said the establishment of the flowsheet will optimise the mass yield and concentrate-grade key components in establishing capital schedules, operating costs, resource life, and also the anticipated revenue per tonne from the portion of Tonkolili’s production.

"The freezing of the optimum flowsheet will allow us to confidently embark on this next exciting phase of the development of the Tonkolili deposit."

The parameters are expected to be established during the second quarter of this year, while the first concentrator plant is scheduled to start production in 2016.

Phase two of the Tonkolili project aims to exploit more than one billion tonnes worth of iron ore in a saprolite portion of its resource.

African Minerals chief executive officer Bernie Pryor said Ausenco already has a long history and familiarity with the company’s project.

"Together with the incremental infrastructure growth that we plan to achieve, the freezing of the optimum flowsheet will allow us to confidently embark on this next exciting phase of the development of the Tonkolili deposit, with a higher value product," Pryor said.

An initial expenditure for the construction of the concentrator and associated facilities would be funded from existing restricted funds of about $300m, with the balance sourced from project level debt finance.

Tonkolili iron ore project, which currently has more than 60 years of mine life, is being developed in a number of staged expansions.

The current project operations are anticipated to produce 20 million tonnes of iron ore per year at full capacity, with this run-rate of production having first been achieved in June 2013.

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