Baniaka iron ore project: Gabon’s on track for 2024 start-up

Since Mining Review Africa last covered the activities of ASX-listed Genmin in depth a year ago, the company has made impressive progress on its flagship Baniaka iron ore project in Gabon, releasing a positive PFS on the project in November 2022 and following up in February this year with the signing of a long-term power supply agreement which will result in the project being powered by green hydroelectricity.

According to MD and CEO JOE ARITI, the company is now focused on achieving first production in mid-2024. Compiled by contributing editor ARTHUR TASSELL.

Baniaka is located about 45 km south of Franceville in the south-east of Gabon, the third largest city in the country. The project has a Global Mineral Resource (GMR) of 760 Mt although the PFS is only based on a portion of this – the Detrital Iron Deposit (DID) and Soft Oxide (SO) resources in the indicated category.

These total 168 Mt at a grade of 47.4% Fe for the DID portion of the GMR and 43.1% Fe for the SO portion. If developed, as now seems a near certainty, the project will be Gabon’s first commercial-scale iron ore mine. The final development decision is expected in the second quarter of this year.

RELATED:Gabon: Mining supports economic diversification goals[1]Gabon: Pivoting from manganese to iron ore[2]

The PFS examined the development of a scalable 5 Mtpa open-pit mining operation over an initial 10-year mine life to produce high value-in-use Lump and Fines iron ore products from Baniaka. The DID and SO ore will be beneficiated through a simple, low-risk wet ore treatment flowsheet.

Final spiral circuit discard is filtered, added to coarse rejects, and placed in an engineered valley fill storage facility. Genmin[3] has designed a solution that does not require a wet tailings storage facility, which is consistent with its ESG objectives.

The metrics of the project are impressive. On a real, ungeared, 100% equity basis, it delivers a post-tax NPV (8) of US$391 million and an IRR of 38%.

The capex, including associated infrastructure, is estimated at US$200 million with payback being achieved in 2.7 years. The project has a projected average cash cost of US$59 per dry metric tonne (dmt) inclusive of mine gate, road haulage, rail and port, and trans-shipment costs to Cape class vessels.

The benefits which will accrue to Gabon are considerable. At steady-state, Baniaka is expected to employ up to 400 people, and over its initial mine life contribute US$602 million to Gabon by way of production royalties and corporate income tax.

In accordance with Gabon’s mining code, 20% of state production royalties are invested in the local community and, in addition, Genmin has committed up to 0.5% of gross revenue to company-administered community development programmes.

While the west and central African region has no shortage of iron ore resources, very few iron ore projects have yet got off the ground due to infrastructural constraints, such as adequate rail links to transport the beneficiated ore from mine sites to coastal ports, in most cases over long distances.

Strong infrastructure support for Baniaka iron ore project

What sets Baniaka apart is that the project can leverage off access to existing regional hydropower, rail and port infrastructure. Power, for example, will be drawn from the modern (it was built in 2016) 160 MW Grand Poubara Hydroelectric Power Station, which is located on the Ogooué River, approximately 35 km north-east of Baniaka.

The long-term power agreement recently concluded with Société de Patrimoine du Service Public de ’Energie Electrique (SDP), Gabon’s State-owned power utility, provides for an initial supply of 30 MW (sufficient to meet Baniaka’s initial electricity requirements), which can be increased to 50 MW to accommodate future expansion of the mine. The pricing reflects the generally lower cost of hydroelectricity generation and is less than US$0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

The long-term renewable power supply agreement for Baniaka also satisfies one of Genmin’s key ESG objectives of delivering high value, greener iron ore products to global markets, promoting reductions in Scope 1 and Scope 3 carbon emissions in iron making.

The ore produced by the mine will be transported to the coast via the Trans Gabon Railway (TGR), a heavy haul standard gauge railway with 26-tonne axle load, which runs 648 km between the port of Owendo, near Libreville, and Franceville.

The railway – which has been in operation for over three decades – was primarily established to support the manganese mining industry led by COMILOG, a Gabonese subsidiary of France’s Eramet Group.

To get the ore from the mine site to the TGR, Genmin is proposing to truck the ore to a new loadout rail terminal located near Franceville, although a 65 km rail spur from the mine to the TGR could eventually replace road haulage.

In respect of mining, a standard, free-dig, truck-and-shovel open pit mining operation, which will be undertaken by a contractor, is contemplated. According to the PFS, the optimal Whittle shell extends approximately 15 km in strike length.

The optimal pit mines 140 Mt at a strip ratio (waste to ore) of 0.21 and an average processed Fe grade of 45.5%. Phase designs were completed to provide a practical mine design and aid in the creation of the production schedule. The larger areas were split into phases approximately 1 km in length. Each phase design incorporates appropriate twin access ramps and a mining strategy that provides for both in-pit and ex-pit haulage of ore and waste.

Main haul roads were designed at 25 m wide to accommodate two-way traffic for a Caterpillar 777 haul truck. Road widths of 15 m have been designed for lower levels to minimise waste stripping and maximise ore extraction. Switchbacks have been designed to an inner radius of 25 m and a minimum mining width of 20 m has been implemented.

The processing facility comprises a standard wet ore treatment flowsheet. It has a feed preparation section, which includes primary and secondary crushing, scrubbing and size classification; a beneficiation section comprising four DMS modules, a spiral separation module, products and rejects handling (thickening and filtration prior to stacking in the valley fill storage facility); and a water recovery and process water circuit.

The workforce will comprise a majority of local employees and a small number of specialist expatriates who will be transported from Franceville and the towns of Moanda and Mvengué to work an equivalent roster of two weeks on and one week off. The planned 400-bed accommodation village will be located on a plateau approximately 8 km east[1]north-east of the processing facility.

While Baniaka will only produce 5 Mtpa of product in its initial stage, which is relatively small for an iron ore project by global standards, Genmin is planning for expansion to 10 Mtpa and aspires to go eventually to 20 Mtpa. It foresees the Baniaka area becoming a province-scale iron ore hub. The company has a 2 445 km2 landholding in the vicinity of Baniaka.

At Baniaka Genmin has defined a cumulative strike length of 85 km of iron mineralisation, divided into 12 prospect areas at different levels of maturity, and the PFS only considers four of the 12.

Approximately 80% of the strike extent remains undrilled. In addition to Baniaka[4], Genmin also holds the Bakoumba project, approximately 80 km to the south-west of Franceville.

Mapping, surface sampling, geophysical surveys and pitting by Genmin have confirmed a 36 km strike length of semi-continuous BIF geology at Bakoumba. Although the final development decision for Baniaka is still awaited, the contract for the detailed engineering design of the processing plant was awarded to Bond Equipment in South Africa during the final quarter of 2022.

The scope of work includes a revision of the PFS design, consideration of the latest bulk sample test work, the provision of equipment and instrumentation lists, detailed civil engineering designs and an implementation schedule.

Funding and offtake agreement with Anglo

In July 2022, Genmin granted Anglo American Marketing Limited (AAML) an exclusivity period from the delivery of the PFS to conduct confirmatory due diligence and negotiate and agree legally binding documentation for the provision of up to US$75 million of funding for Baniaka, and an offtake agreement for up to 100% of iron ore products from Baniaka. As at the time of writing, Anglo American was finalising its due diligence.

Commenting on the deal when it was announced in July last year, Genmin CEO Joe Ariti said, “We are very pleased to have signed this agreement with a leading, global mining company of Anglo American’s stature.

“We regard Anglo American as an ideal potential partner for us in achieving our goal of pioneering iron ore production in Gabon in a sustainable way, given Anglo American’s heritage in Africa, and commitment to sustainable operations and activities as an iron ore producer and marketer.”

Genmin also has in place three non-binding offtake Memoranda of Understanding with Chinese parties who would become customers of Anglo American in the event of the financing/offtake agreement coming into effect.


  1. ^ Gabon: Mining supports economic diversification goals (
  2. ^ Gabon: Pivoting from manganese to iron ore (
  3. ^ Genmin (
  4. ^ Baniaka (

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