Exxaro ready to roll at Mayoko

Exxaro ready to roll at Mayoko

Iron ore operations are waiting for “the go-ahead to mine by the Congolese government”. The company, part-owned by the IDC, has already commissioned rail transport and has stacked up containers in Pointe-Noire….


exxaro insideExxaro will start iron ore mining operations at its Mayoko Iron Ore Project as soon as the Congolese government finalises agreements on the use of rail and port facilities.

Exxaro Resources Limited is 15% owned by the Industrial Development Corporation and is South Africa’s second-largest coal producer; it also has interests in iron ore and base metals. The mining company has so far secured a mining licence and signed memoranda of understanding with the Republic of Congo’s rail and port authorities.

“Also outstanding is the signing of an investment agreement with the Congolese government and then we are ready to go,” said JP Oosthuizen, the integration manager Congo iron ore at Exxaro. He was speaking at the fourth annual Africa Iron Ore Conference, which took place at the Radisson Blu in Sandton, Johannesburg, on 3 and 4 June.

With several international mining companies and juniors actively exploring the continent’s untapped sources of iron ore, the event looked at opportunities and challenges faced by mining companies operating in Africa. The successful annual conferences have become a regular gathering for iron ore and stainless steel executives in Africa.

The Mayoko project is on Mount Lekoumou, in the western corner of Republic of Congo, about 300 kilometres north-east of the port city of Pointe-Noire. It is expected to produce high grade iron ore. The geological composition of the Lekoumou deposit is composed of the upper enriched iron cap or direct shipping ore (DSO), which contains over 50% iron, and the beneficiable DSO found just below the upper iron cap, which contains approximately 41% iron.

Oosthuizen said the company’s exploration programme into Mayoko would continue until early 2015, and it would put up four to eight drilling rigs. During early explorations, Exxaro used several methodologies, including drilling, trenching and pitting. In terms of infrastructure development, he said Exxaro was looking at expanding rail facilities to accommodate its target of producing 10 metric tons per annum (mtpa) of iron ore by 2017. “The existing rail corridor is one of the most important attributes of this opportunity and although the rail line is in good repair, its capacity would need to be expanded.”

Limited upgrades had been done to the rail line linking Mayoko to the main rail line, said Oosthuizen. Upgrades included adding slippers and doing repairs to bridges. In addition, the existing port in Pointe-Noire did not have the capacity for iron ore exports and was heavily congested. Given the scale of mining activity under way, a new bulk commodities port was being developed to the north, facilitated by investments from Exxaro and other major mining companies.

The company was using generators to produce electricity, but it would have to look into other alternatives in Phase Two when it started producing bigger volumes of iron ore. “We will look into taping into the existing hydro-electric grid to meet demand.”

Exxaro was raring to go as soon as it was given the go-ahead to mine by the Congolese government, said Oosthuizen. The company had commissioned seven locomotives, 90 ore wagons and 15 ballasting wagons. In addition, 1 350 iron ore containers were stacked up in Pointe-Noire, “ready to transport iron ore to Europe and China”, he said.