New push for iron and copper mining mega-projects in Angola

12 April 2010

Luanda, Angola, 12 April – Angola is once again moving ahead with the mega mining projects for extraction and processing of iron and copper, which involves a search for international investors to support the projected high level of investment.

Amongst the companies that have already been in contact with Empresa Nacional de Ferros de Angola (Ferrangol) are Brazil’s Vale, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, and Korea’s Samsung, according to the Africa Monitor newsletter.

The plan is to make use of the reserves of iron and other iron ores in Cassinga, Jamba and Cassala Quitungo, in the provinces of Kwanza Norte and Huíla.

The plan includes extracting and transforming the iron into steel and of manganese for the production of iron alloy, by setting up a steel making plant in the region.

Studies carried out in the colonial era showed that Cassala Quitungo had reserves of iron estimated at 600 million tons, of which 100 million were proven, and 35 million tons of manganese.

According to Africa Monitor, projected investment totals around US$6 billion and some potential investors have raised doubts about the feasibility of the investment in current market conditions.

The chairman of Ferrangol, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, recently said that the public-private partnerships for concessions on iron and other minerals would likely be closed this year, with the state company keeping a majority stake in the projects.

“Our projection is that Angola will become self-sufficient in some steel making products, mainly those that are essential for some industries. This is an integrated production project,” the chairman of Ferrangol said recently.

The launch of the project has had a favourable opinion for the Ministry for Geology and Mines, and that is followed by approval from the Council of Ministers, he said.

A programme from the Ministry for Geology and Mines made public at the end of 2009 outlined the diversification, over the next four years, of mining to reduce dependence on diamonds and increase revenues.

Angola is a country recognized as being particularly rich in mining resources as it is estimated that 35 of the 45 most important minerals in world commerce are found there, particularly oil, natural gas, diamonds, phosphates, bituminous substances, iron, magnesium, gold and ornamental rocks.

Copper mining at the Mavoio mines in the Angolan province of Uíge is due to begin this year according to the State Secretariat for Geology and Mining.

The Mavoio mining region, which covers an area of 10,000 square kilometres including the municipalities of Bembe, Damba and Maquela do Zombo, in the prospecting phase involved investment of around US$22 million.

According to technical projections put forward by copper prospecting, exploration and production license-holders in the Mavoio region, monthly production is expected to be 20,000 tonnes of pure copper.

Chinese investors have been the focus of Angola’s attempts to attract investors to the project.

“As well as supplying oil, we also have areas that China can make use of, for example, other mining resources such as iron, copper, diamonds, gold and products in the area of fishing and agriculture,” the Angolan ambassador to China, João Manuel Bernardo said recently.

There is still “a lot to do and we can’t miss out on China’s support,” to rebuild the country, the diplomat said.

Trade with Angola, China’s second biggest Portuguese-speaking trading partner after Brazil, in 2009 totalled US$17.06 billion, or 32.6 percent less than in 2008. (macauhub)