Further proof that Sierra Leone is headed towards the right direction socio-economically and politically under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma has been demonstrated once again. The African Minerals Company has started shipping Sierra Leone’s Iron Ore from Tonkolili in a move that will tremendously boost the country’s economy. Giles Gwinnett reports :

African Minerals  has begun loading its first iron ore shipment from the Tonkolili project – the first from Sierra Leone for more than three decades.

The 40,000 tonnes of material will be delivered to Shandong Iron and Steel Group. The shipment is the result of an integrated mine, rail and port infrastructure built by the firm within 14 months of receiving the relevant paperwork.

Moreover, the firm added that it is now expanding capacity at Tonkolili and that its Phase 1 direct shipping ore production from 2013 and beyond is now scheduled to be 20 million tonnes per year.

Executive chairman of the company Frank Timis said: “We are delighted that our Phase I Tonkolili Project, with major expansion still to follow, has reached this important milestone which will see AML emerge as a world-class iron ore exporter.”

He added: “With our planned near-term expansion to 20Mtpa in this, the first phase of development of our project, we will shortly become the largest fully integrated exporter of iron ore in West Africa.”

Sierra Leone’s president Ernest Bai Koroma described the first shipment as a “significant milestone” in the country’s development as a major mining jurisdiction.

“Its achievement is further evidence that the redevelopment of Sierra Leone and its economy continues to progress,” he said.

Final commissioning of the port and rail is expected to be completed by the end of the fourth quarter this year.

Meanwhile, the building of a 15mtpa wet process facility at Tonkolili is progressing satisfactorily and is expected to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2012, ramping up to full capacity during the second quarter next year.

A $100 mln standby facility has been completed and funds are now available, said the firm, which added if had begun an additional 5 mtpa expansion for the production of a A132 hematite product. The additional capacity was commissioned in the fourth quarter this year.

Additional works and equipment, including more locos and ore cars, and a second wagon dumper at the port, are currently being designed and procured.
 
“With a full year production from both the 15 mtpa wet plant and this additional 5mtpa AI32 plant, annual Phase 1 direct shipping ore production from 2013 and beyond is now scheduled to be 20 mtpa,” said the company.

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