Simandou or Simandon't?
The Simandou deposit in Guinea ranks as a peerless untapped repository of iron ore. It would represent the biggest mining investment in Africa, rivalling even the oil industry’s mega-projects deep under the continent’s Atlantic coast. But like other fabled African prospects – take Congo’s Inga dam – it remains unrealised.
The mine, plus a 670km railway and a port to get the iron ore from a remote hillside to the world market, would cost about $20bn to build. That is three times the annual gross domestic product of Guinea, a nation just as mired in poverty as its volatile neighbours in west Africa despite already being the continent’s biggest producer of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium.
Ferrexpo, a London-listed Ukrainian iron ore miner, said on Wednesday it had bought a 14.4 per cent stake in Brazilian mining group Ferrous Resources do Brasil for $80m.
The announcement marks Ferrexpo’s first significant expansion outside Ukraine and comes weeks after Kostyantin Zhevago, its majority owner, said the company was on track to continue supplanting its Brazilian rivals – including Vale, the world’s biggest iron ore exporter – as a supplier to Asian steelmakers.
Rio Tinto may have breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday when Guinea’s mining minister, Mohamed Lamine Fofana, admitted it would miss a production target of 2015 due in part to the infrastructure challenges of the Simandou mega-project.
But Guinea’s president, Alpha Condé, on Friday overruled Fofana, insisting there was no change in the timeline. So the time pressure is back on then?
Seek and ye shall find … even if it is not what you were looking for.
That, at least, is what has happened to US-Chilean company, Darmatal, in Paraguay. As interest increases in Paraguay’s hydrocarbons potential, Darmatal was exploring for oil. Instead, it found iron.
The fallout from the mining strikes in South Africa has already made a dent or two in the economic statistics. It has also had repurcussions for several companies – Lonmin in particular. Now Kumba Iron Ore, majority owned by Anglo American, has issued a profits warning.
Shares in Kumba fell nearly 3 per cent in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The company said in a statement that full year earnings for 2012-13, to be announced in February, could be 20 per cent lower than in the previous year.
Platinum, then gold, then transport, now iron ore. Strikes in South Africa just keep on spreading.
The latest miner to be affected is Kumba Iron Ore, which is majority owned by Anglo American. On Wednesday 300 miners started a wildcat strike at the company’s Sishen mine in the Northern Cape. While it’s a small proportion of the total workforce, it’s a worry, and the share price shows it.
Shares in India’s Sesa Goa and Sterlite Industries – which are set to be merged by parent company Vedanta – fell more than 5 per cent in early trading Tuesday after the Goan state government announced a temporary suspension of all mining late on Monday.
The move came just days after a judiciary commission exposed an illegal mining scam scam involving “serious illegalities” in the award of licences, the latest in a long line of mining scandals to have rocked the country.