Gabon's metallurgical segment takes off and boosts local mining sector

As part of the government’s plans to promote value addition under the Industrial Gabon pillar of the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan, the processing of minerals has seen some key developments. President Ali Bongo Ondimba announced a decision in mid-2016 to ban raw material exports by 2020, suggesting that even minerals would have to undergo some value addition. While scrap metal recycling is picking up in the Nkok Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a metallurgical complex in Moanda that opened in the summer of 2015 has moved Gabon up the technology ladder.

Complex Processing

The Moanda Metallurgical Complex is the result of a partnership between the government and Compagnie des Mines de l’Ogooué (COMILOG), which is a subsidiary of France’s Eramet. Opened by the president in June 2015, the complex is a step up the value chain for a country that has produced large quantities of raw manganese ore for 52 years. During the inauguration ceremony, the president said, “By deciding to encourage the local processing of our raw materials, I was eager not to punish the industrialists or harm them, but to improve added value, and thus offer our economy more solid, more sustainable sources of growth that can generate the most qualified and best paid jobs.”

The metallurgical cluster is fully owned by COMILOG, in which state-owned Société Equatoriale des Mines) has a 28.5% stake. Total investment for the project was €240m. Construction started in 2010 and took over 1000 workers and 6m manhours to complete. Located in the south-eastern province of Haut-Ogooué, the Moanda Metallurgical Complex spans 50 ha and offers 432 metallurgy jobs. The complex hosts silicomanganese and metal manganese plants with respective processing capacities of 65,000 tpa and 20,000 tpa, with these taking two years to reach full capacity. These two plants use hydro- and pyro-metallurgical technology, which is a first for Africa. The Moanda Mining and Metallurgical School also opened in September 2016 and is set to supply labour that will be trained in the new skills demanded. The government supported the Moanda project by investing €150m in the construction of the 160-MW Grand Poubara hydroelectric dam, which started generating electricity in 2013. COMILOG will process 5% of its total manganese output in the new facility.

Nouvelle Gabon Mining (NOGA), which is owned by India-based Coalsale Group, started producing manganese ore at its 800-sq-km Franceville mine in 2015. Peak production at the site is 28,000 tonnes per month, much of which will be processed at a new 75,000-tpa metallurgical plant. NOGA is opting to produce electrolytic manganese dioxide, an ingredient in alkaline batteries, rather than ferromanganese and silicomanganese in light of their global oversupply, according to an October 2015 report from bi-monthly newspaper Gabon Economie.

Scrap Recycling

Ferrous and non-ferrous recycling is a growing business in Gabon, especially since the 2011 formation of the Nkok SEZ, near Libreville. Chaudronnerie du Gabon is a Lebanese-Indian investment of $10m for a 4-ha steel recycling plant with a 30,000-tpa capacity. The company launched operations in September 2014 and imports steel wires as its primary input. Another company, les Aciéries du Gabon, launched in November 2015 and will produce 60,000 tonnes of 8-32-mm rebar. The firm is also set to manufacture round steel tubes, rectangular and square tubes, equal leg angles, girders, flat irons and billets, all of which are set to satisfy local demand.

Gold is also targeted for processing at the Nkok SEZ, having been officially named a strategic resource in early 2016, with jewellery manufacturing the most likely activity. Africa Alloys, Metal CO and Sogamétal are other firms that are currently converting aluminium, copper and lead into scrap metal in the Nkok SEZ. By February 2016, out of the 1148 workers in the Nkok SEZ, 570 were employed by the metallurgy industry.

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The Report: Gabon 2016

Industry & Mining chapter from The Report: Gabon 2016