International Mining & Infrastructure Corporation plc (“IMIC”) is focused on unlocking value opportunities in the African iron ore space which are currently constrained by the lack of infrastructure solutions. IMIC is seeking to establish an important asset-ownership position in the West and Central African iron ore mining sector through investment in junior miners and related infrastructure.
The African Iron Ore Opportunity
The African continent is known to be rich in iron ore resources with the largest untapped iron ore bodies found in West and Central Africa. Within this region three major iron ore clusters have been identified, as illustrated on the map below. The first cluster is present within Mauritania, one of a very few iron ore producing countries in Africa. The second cluster includes Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and the final cluster includes Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
According to the current and limited exploration works undertaken in these clusters over 50 billion tonnes of exploitable resources have been discovered. These three regions have the potential to produce over 400 million tonnes annually if all the currently identified iron ore projects were developed into commercial mining operations. This would place this West and Central African region in direct competition with the largest producers, Australia and Brazil, in volume, quality and production cost terms.
The key - Infrastructure
Despite the presence of significant resources, West and Central African projects are constrained by the lack of necessary infrastructure to facilitate iron ore delivery to the market. The iron ore mining industry is heavily reliant on transport infrastructure to carry the mined ore from the mines to adequate port facilities to ship to various overseas destinations. The transport facilities, including railway, port and power infrastructure, are crucial components in the development of iron ore projects including those aiming to locally beneficiate magnetite ores.
A range of opportunities is available in the region to unlock value and access significant iron ore volumes through the provision of creative infrastructure solutions.
IMIC - Unlocking West Africa’s Potential
IMIC’s strategy, in conjunction with its privately held strategic partner African Iron Ore Group, is to work with African countries, including those that are officially classified as highly indebted, to create fully fundable solutions for infrastructure provision. In addition, IMIC will look to acquire interests in or control of junior iron ore miners where there is an opportunity for an infrastructure solution.
AIOG, through its extensive regional expertise and strategic alliances, will take the lead in developing iron ore mining related infrastructure solutions. It is intended that the infrastructure projects will be largely debt funded with whatever equity component is required being provided by IMIC in view of its ability, to access the capital markets.
IMIC believes that mining-related infrastructure in Africa – mainly railways and seaports – should be multiuser and that it should serve a number of mines, even when the mines are operated by competing companies. The Company also believes that if practicable such infrastructure should be multipurpose, carrying general freight and passenger traffic. In this way, the mining-related infrastructure can provide the backbone of a country’s transport system, playing a key role in economic and social development.
IMIC is primarily focused on iron ore opportunities in West and Central Africa. The demand for iron ore is currently being driven by China which consumes approximately 70% of the world’s seaborne iron ore. As the urbanization of China continues, demand for iron ore is expected to remain at significant levels through to 2030. Other emerging countries, including India, are expected to soon become major players of the iron ore seaborne demand.
First Assets within Cameroon Iron Ore Corridor
The acquisition of Afferro marked IMIC’s first assets on the ground. With four licences in the heart of the extensive South Cameroon, North Congo, Gabon iron ore corridor, it provides the Company with the perfect starting point for its strategy of facilitating infrastructure solutions, consolidating further assets and bringing African iron ore to the international market.
Looking forward, IMIC is excited by the prospect of accelerating the smaller Ntem deposit development. Ntem is located c 80km from the Kribi port. Its initial indicated and inferred resource of 115mt at 34% Fe supports production of 4mtpa of high quality concentrate. The project’s close proximity to the Kribi Port, due to be commissioned in Q3 2014, and associated power generation facilities available near Kribi means it has the potential to deliver early iron ore and cash flows with limited capex.
Nkout, IMIC’s larger asset with total resource of 2.5Bt Indicated and Inferred, which is currently planned for 35 million tonnes per year of production over a 20 year life of the mine, requires significant investment in infrastructure, as the deposit lies 330km from the natural deep sea port near Kribi in a region with no existing power infrastructure and little road access. The PFS was begun in January 2014, with the DFS intended to progress rapidly thereafter. Having completed the bankable feasibility study for Nkout, IMIC then plans to develop a financing package with its partner AIOG to develop the multiuser, multipurpose infrastructure which will unlock not only Nkout, but will form the backbone of a wider economic development opportunity.
Further down the line, an IMIC developed infrastructure corridor will provide the Company with multiple opportunities to take strategic stakes in other junior mining companies operating in the area and benefit from the catalyst IMIC’s infrastructure solution will provide to their businesses.
Strategic partnership with AIOG
IMIC and AIOG have agreed to partner on an exclusive basis to acquire, finance and develop iron ore mining and related infrastructure projects in Africa. AIOG plans to leverage its extensive regional expertise and global strategic partnerships in the mining, banking and infrastructure construction sectors to assist Central and West African governments to develop and implement iron ore mining related infrastructure solutions in return for access to iron ore production. It is IMIC’s intention to acquire strategic stakes in iron ore mining projects and companies in order to benefit from the significant value creation unlocked when these projects secure infrastructure solutions that will enable their commercial development into producing assets.
AIOG has devoted much work to successfully assembling a "best in breed" alliance of China’s largest state owned enterprises including construction and equipment groups, iron ore off-takers and financial institutions which fully understand the mission of AIOG and IMIC, and are prepared to provide the backing required to ensure the launch and fast-track success of this initiative.
Agreements have been signed by AIOG (and in some cases by the Company) with the following Chinese companies (or their subsidiaries):
China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (CREEC): Rail and Ports Engineering
China Railway Group (CREC): Railways and Ports Construction
China Machinery Engineering Corporation, (CMEC): Power Generation
China Huaye Group Co. Ltd, (MCC Huaye): Iron Ore beneficiation
China Railway Materials Co. Ltd, (CRM): Off-take
Hebei Iron and Steel Company, (Hebei): Off-take
China - important player in the iron ore industry
China has rapidly become the world’s largest iron ore consumer and importer. In the past decade, its annual consumption has risen to approximately 70 per cent of global seaborne iron ore, in a trade that currently totals in excess of 1 billion tonnes annually. Chinese steel output is expected to continue to grow for at least another twenty years as the country continues its rapid urbanisation and as more and more Chinese become consumers of iron ore related products, such as cars and domestic appliances.
China has funding capability and engineering expertise and capability for large scale infrastructure projects. Chinese domestic production is constrained by growing production costs, depleting resources and environmental issues. Therefore, China needs to find new supply sources to satisfy its increasing consumption requirements. As all the world’s high grade, large iron ore deposits are found outside of China and few large multinational producers currently dominate iron ore imports into China, the country’s current national development plan seeks to diversify its iron ore supply away from its over-reliance on the three large multinational producers by directly influencing or controlling at least 50% of its iron ore import sources within the next five years. Africa creates a great opportunity to fulfil this plan.
Accelerate the studies on the Ntem and Nkout projects and develop financing packages for required infrastructure post bankable feasibility studies
Consolidate further stakes along the South Cameroon/North Congo/Gabon iron ore corridor
Develop further iron ore corridors in West Africa where lack of infrastructure is limiting economic development