Calls it the ‘richest’ in the world, bringing investors’ attention to Liberia and Guinea—
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosted The Future Minerals Forum, from January 11-13, which brought together major personalities in the global mining industry, as the Kingdom itself aims to invest aggressively in mining in a very significant way. Among the attendees, which included some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential individuals, was Robert Friedland, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, an affiliate of High Power Exploration (HPX). HPX through its Guinean and Liberian subsidiaries is developing the Nimba Project, which will mine some of the world’s highest grade of iron ore and export it through Liberia, thanks to a Bilateral Agreement reached between Liberia and Guinea in 2019 for the transshipment of iron ore mined in Guinea. The long awaited Nimba Project which is scheduled to commence construction in 2023, is estimated at nearly $2.8 billion dollars over 25 years and is expected to create 2,000 direct and permanent jobs in the region. HPX reportedly already raised over $200 million in initial capital and secured insurance through the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and in a recent Financial Times article is said to be planning a UK stock market flotation for the Nimba Project.
Liberia is estimated to benefit from over $600 million in infrastructure investments in the Buchanan Port as well as expansion of the rail that connects Yakepa to the port of Buchanan, 500 direct jobs, and unspecified revenue from user fees and contracts with local third party service providers.
Friedland is highly regarded as an astute investor and minerals explorer, and for over three decades, has developed some of the world’s major mines, including projects in South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Australia, China, Myanmar, South Korea, Fiji and Mongolia in various minerals including copper and zinc. He has led efforts to mobilize over $25 billion in capital for mining ventures and related and other businesses—including advanced and innovative mining technologies. He was recently inducted into the prestigious American Mining Hall of Fame. As a keynote speaker at the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia conference, he spoke on the conference theme, “Investing in Lands of Opportunity, Defining a Global Hub.” In his remarks, he referenced the Nimba Project as the “beluga caviar” of iron ore because of the low emissions and least production of global warming gas in the steel making process. He said, “Nimba is the richest iron ore mine in the world by grade, very close to the ocean and we are proud to be developing high grade and very low impurity ore.” HPX estimates commencing with 15m per annum and then ramping up to 30m per annum over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of its Nimba investment, generating public revenue for both Guinea and Liberia for decades to come, as well as providing significant sustainability benefits by reducing carbon emissions.
In order for the Nimba project to proceed, multi-user access to the rail that connects Yekepa to the Port of Buchanan is essential, and HPX/Ivanhoe Liberia is actively engaged with the Government of Liberia for a negotiated rail access arrangement including looking to engage with ArcelorMittal (AML) on expansion, maintenance and other terms, as AML currently controls the rail for its own mining operations. In a recent decision by the full House of Representatives regarding the proposed revised AML Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), that body voted against exclusive control or what it called monopolizing of the rail by a single concessionaire before sending the AML MDA over to the Senate for further action.
The MDA is now currently before the Senate for debate and its concurrence with the House of Representatives towards final ratification. Debates during the AML MDA ratification process have been extremely controversial with many community groups raising issues accusing AML of not meeting its community investment obligations. However AML in its responses to various critics have insisted that it has met or exceeded all of its responsibilities outlined in its agreements since 2005. The Senate is scheduled to resume debate on the AML MDA in the coming days.
For its part, HPX/Ivanhoe Liberia Ltd., in public statements and press releases, has continued a posture and willingness to work with the GOL, AML and all relevant stakeholders for a fair and mutually beneficial rail user agreement.