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Fortescue has shipped first product from its Belinga iron ore mine in Gabon, marking the first time the company has exported iron ore from a port outside of Australia.

The joint venture between Fortescue and Ivindo Iron SA is located in north-east Gabon and has worked to open growth opportunities for Fortescue throughout Africa.

The milestone was celebrated by Fortescue Metals chief executive officer Dino Otranto, Ivindo Iron chief executive officer Eric Epee and Gabon Minister of Mines M. Hervé Patrick Opiangah.

“This is a truly remarkable achievement by the team in such a short period of time and marks a key milestone in the early-stage mine development in Gabon,” Otranto said.

“This project has the potential to revolutionise our portfolio and ultimately create a product that will be the envy of our peers. It will also open growth opportunities for Fortescue throughout Africa.

“This initial project phase is providing important insights that will help ensure we set this project up for future success. A major exploration drilling campaign is underway with the results continuing to show that this project has the potential to be significant scale and high-grade.”

Fortescue has employed more than 400 Gabonese people at the project to date, with over 50 per cent employed from villages located around the project area.

Over $US30 million in goods and services has been sourced in Gabon for the project, with studies continuing to advance potential large-scale development designs.

The new milestone comes less than year after Fortescue and Ivindo Iron signed the mining convention for the project with the Gabonese Republic.