Gerald Group subsidiary SL Mining has announced that its first shipment of iron ore concentrate has set sail from Freetown Port (Queen Elizabeth II) in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

More than 55,000t of high-grade iron ore concentrate was shipped on MV Cooper vessel under the brand Marampa Blue.

The first shipment will be delivered to customers in China while the second shipment of approximately 62,000t of iron ore concentrate is expected to leave soon on the MV Ultralaz vessel.

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Mines and Minerals Rado Yokie said: “Iron ore exports had been dormant for four years. As Marampa Blue is a very high-grade ore and coming from Sierra Leone, it sends a good signal to the world that this country is ready for business. It is a feather to Sierra Leone’s mining cap.”

Gerald Group and SL Mining chairman Craig Dean said: “SL Mining’s first shipment departed from Freetown Port safe and sound.

“This is a proud day and a key milestone for SL Mining, and for our employees and contractors who have been working on this complex project to restore production of iron ore at the Marampa mine, alongside local communities and the Government of Sierra Leone. I would like to thank everyone involved.”

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The firm intends to expand the delivery of high-grade iron ore concentrate to markets in Europe and Africa.

Engaged in the development and production of Marampa Blue, SL Mining is located in the Port Loko district, in the northern province of Sierra Leone.

In March 2017, SL Mining was awarded a renewable large-scale mining licence granted under the 2009 Mines and Minerals Act for a period of 25 years.