Sable Mining beats majors to the punch in Guinea

Shares of Sable Mining Africa (LON:SBLM) surged as much as 12% in heavy volumes on Monday after announcing it has been granted an export licence for its $250 million Nimba iron ore project in south-west Guinea.

The London AIM-listed company said the export decree is the first of its kind to be granted by the West African nation to export ore through Liberia to the Port of Buchanan.

Sable Mining was recently granted mining licence and the company is fast-tracking to 2015 its low cost, high grade direct shipping ore production from Nimba.

With a current JORC Resource of 135.5 million tonnes at 59.4% iron, the 123 square kilometre project is the second largest on- or near-rail undeveloped DSO deposit in West Africa according to Sable Mining.

MiningMX quotes from a research note by brokers GMP Securities that states Sable is an attractive M&A candidate and that Nimba's resource is likely to be upped by 50% to 200mt ahead of a pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility study next year:

"By doing this [combining an offtake deal with non-offtake finance], the door remains open to M&A, with Mittal, Glencore, Jindal and Anglo American all having publically expressed their intent to build a West African iron ore business," said GMP Securities in its note.

Guinea is home to some of the richest and easily exploitable iron ore fields outside of Australia's Pilbara region and a number of companies are setting up projects in West Africa.

Late last year BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE:BHP) sold its 40% stake in its Nimba project in the same district to B&A Mineração, an investment company set up  by Roger Agnelli,  former boss  of Brazilian giant Vale.

Rio Tinto (LON:RIO)'s 95mtpa Simandou project in Guinea is only expected to start production by late 2018 and part of the Anglo-Australian giant's negotiations with the government of Guinea is centred on building a new 650 kilometre railway  to the Conakry, Guinea's capital to the north instead of the cheaper, shorter route to Buchanan.

The northern area of the massive Simandou mountain deposit is held by BSG Resources – a division of Israeli billionaire Benny Steinmetz's diamond company – and  Vale. The blueprint for the BSGR-Vale mine also opts for  the Buchanan route to the south.

The benchmark CFR import price of 62% iron ore fines at China's Tianjin on Thursday was $131.40 a tonne, up almost 20% up from levels reached this time last year according to data provided by SteelIndex.