The country is currently the world’s third producer of manganese, only second to South Africa and Australia and to optimise the exploration of the country’s numerous natural resources, Societe Equatoriale des Mines (SEM) was launched in 2011.
“We have three mining licenses in Gabon to explore gold and we have started the activities. The first mining licence is in the north which is a very gold area,” Fabrice Nze Bekale, CEO, SEM Gabon told CNBC Africa.
According to the African Development Bank, mining accounted for 6.3 per cent of the country’s GDP and six per cent of exports in 2012. The government hopes to quadruple the sector’s economic contribution by 2025 as part of the Gabon Industrial Development plan.
“We have another licence in the south next to a gold producing mine already so it’s very promising and the third is in the centre of the country,” he said.
“Well, I just want to specify that we have several missions, our strategy is to be focused on gold as an operator, however, it doesn’t mean that we will neglect the other minerals, we have just decided to apply another business model for the other minerals,” he explained.
Belinga iron ore remains one of the world’s largest untapped resources and a deposit estimated at one billion tonne of the mineral remains unexplored in the country. Government officials have said that the country could contain much more than the official one billion tons and the country is set to launch a formal tender process in 2016.
“For the other minerals, we attract partners, we set up joint ventures (JVs) and we exploit those deposits together so very soon, we are going to announce the signing of a JV agreement with a partner on the Okondja Manganese deposit.”
The Okondja manganese deposit was owned by top global mine BHP Billiton, however, last year, the miming company froze all its projects in the West African state crushing the governments hopes for sizeable investments in manganese and iron ore production.
“Very soon as well, we are going to announce the signing of another JV agreement on iron ore with another partner,” he added.