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 A joint venture (JV) led by iron-ore major Fortescue Metals will invest $90-million on exploring the Belinga iron-ore project, in Gabon, over the next three years.

Fortescue announced that the JV, Ivindo Iron SA, in which the company holds an 80% interest, had signed an exploration convention with the government of Gabon, containing key commercial and legal terms for the exploration of the Belinga project and enabling the grant of exploration licences covering approximately 4 500 km2.

The exploration convention contemplates access to previous work and data relating to the Belinga project, and envisages an exploration works progme of approximately $90-million over three years.

Fortescue told shareholders that Invindo Iron would immediately start exploration and studies upon grant of the exploration licences, with the initial focus on exploration works to determine the potential size and grade of the Belinga iron-ore deposit and to evaluate logistics solutions.

“Fortescue is committed to its strategic pillars of investing in the long-term sustainability of the iron-ore business and investing in growth. Consistent with this approach, Fortescue is pursuing global opportunities in iron-ore that align with our strategy and expertise,” CEO Elizabeth Gaines said.

“We welcome the opportunity to assess the Belinga project, which we believe is potentially one of the world’s largest undeveloped, high-grade hematite deposits. We look forward to working with our partner, the Gabon government and all key stakeholders on this important project as we continue to assess opportunities to optimise growth and returns in our iron-ore business.”

Fortescue has partnered with the Africa Transformation and Industrialization Fund (ATIF), which holds a 20% interest in the Ivindo Iron JV. In accordance with the Gabon Mining Code, the Gabon government will receive a free carry interest of 10% in Ivindo Iron upon the future grant of the exploitation licences for the purpose of mining and developing the Belinga project

Gabon Minister of Mines Elvis Ossindji who has finalised negotiations with Ivindo Iron for the effective resumption of development work on the Belinga iron deposit said that holding a priority position in Gabon’s transformation and economy diversification strategy, this project had witnessed an acceleration in order to create added value and hundreds of jobs in the country.

“The culmination of the Belinga iron project with the Australian mining company Fortescue Metals Group and ATIF aims to strengthen the mining sector’s contribution for a thriving economy, while making Gabon a benchmark mining destination.”