Prefeasibility study shows positive signs
Privately-owned High Power Exploration (HPX), founded by mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland, has announced positive prefeasibility study (PFS) findings for the Nimba iron-ore project – a proposed mine, rail and port development to export up to 30-million tons a year of direct shipping ore from the project site in Guinea, through Liberia to the Buchanan port.
The study estimates that the project will cost $2.77-billion, with direct capital costs for rail and port development in Liberia estimated to be more than $600-million.
The PFS estimates project operating costs to be below $18/t and assumes construction starts in 2023.
HPX’s 85%-owned subsidiary, Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée (SMFG), has secured legally valid authorisations for movement of ore through Liberia from the Guinea government in December last year and from the Liberia government in August this year.
The operating cost estimate assumes that access fees will be paid to the government of Liberia, as the owner of the existing rail line which ArcelorMittal Liberia is operating.
The exact parameters of the non-discriminatory, multi-user access agreement are currently under negotiation, HPX reports.
“We are confident that satisfactory agreements for this purpose will be reached with the government of Liberia, who are fully aware of the massive benefits of this project for the people of Liberia, and which will help develop this part of West Africa into a significant iron-ore producing area, says SMFG chairperson Guy de Selliers.
Under the development plan set forth in the PFS, significant additional infrastructure investment will be made in Liberia by a subsidiary company, Ivanhoe Liberia, in order to facilitate the transportation of ore to the Buchanan port from the mine site. This includes the expansion of the capacity of the existing rail infrastructure between Tokadeh, in Liberia, and the Buchanan port, which spans 243 km. This would include rehabilitation of rail infrastructure alongside an abandoned rail right-of-way from Tokadeh to Yekepa, as well as a significant expansion of the Port of Buchanan through the construction of a new berth and bulk material handling facilities.
The rehabilitation and expansion will also provide for passenger and light freight rail access, which could contribute significantly to regional trade and economic development.
HPX says that the development of the Nimba project is estimated to create 2 000 direct permanent jobs, of which about 1 500 will be in Guinea and 500 in Liberia.
The mine contemplated in the 2021 PFS will be adjacent to a Unesco World Heritage site, in an area which has been set aside for mine development by the Guinea government.
HPX states that the 2021 PFS seeks to minimize the impact of mining in the buffer zone surrounding the site, as well as to enhance the protection of the World Heritage Site itself.
“The PFS that we have completed is of an extremely high standard and provides a clear roadmap for development of our project.
However, in doing so we will be very mindful of the environmental challenges that come with this project given its setting in the Nimba mountain range.
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment currently being developed for both Guinea and Liberia utilises industry best-practice methods that will demonstrate to all of our stakeholders the efforts we are taking to protect, preserve and enhance the environment in which the project will operate,” says SMF CEO Mamady Youla.
Earlier in 2021, Washington-based MIGA, a World Bank Group member, provided political risk insurance for the development phase of the Nimba iron-ore project. The policies cover political risks that could arise in both Guinea and Liberia during the study phase of the project.