The Gerald Group-owned Marampa Mines Limited has commissioned a 3.25 million tonnes per annum expansion of the namesake iron ore mine in Sierra Leone.
The expansion follows a restart of mining on September 1, 2021, and ups output from 2 million tonnes per annum, producing the company’s trademarked Marampa Blue product.
Marampa Blue entails a >65% iron content concentrate currently in high demand as the world’s iron smelters seek to reduce their carbon footprints.
Sierra Leone president Maada Bio welcomed the restart of full-scale operations. “Exports of high-value products such as Marampa Blue iron ore concentrate from Sierra Leone will increase year on year and deliver a long-awaited boost to our country’s economic growth and stability,” he said in a statement.
“I share my sense of hope and confidence with all of you for the continued success of the Marampa mines and new inward investment in our natural resources sectors across Sierra Leone.”
Gerald Group and Marampa Mines CEO Craig Dean said the expansion was part of a shared vision to optimize the beneficiation of up to about 1.7 billion tonnes of compliant resources at Marampa, which combines Marampa North and South concessions.
“[The venture] brings additional revenues to the government of Sierra Leone and creates opportunities by developing a sustainable and resilient mining operation, so Sierra Leoneans significantly benefit from MML’s growth and success,” he said.
The 3.25 million tonnes per year expansion mainly includes the addition of a new feed point and a new product line to accommodate the additional feed and product volume, as well as the addition of a new set of spiral blocks to increase processing capacity, and an expansion of the mining fleet with large 90 million tonne capacity excavators to increase mining volume.
Marampa Mines has laid out plans to expand the operation further to 7 million tonnes per annum, more than doubling the current plant nameplate capacity.
As part of the expansion process, options to access additional power and renewable or lower carbon-intensive energy sources are under consideration. Discussion for operational access to Pepel’s rail and port facilities are underway and will contribute significantly to MML’s streamlining of export operations and reduction in carbon footprint, key components to ensure the future competitiveness and sustainability of the mining operations.
Chinese customs figures from February showed that Sierra Leone exported 1.77 million tonnes to China in January, almost double the volume exported a year earlier, making it the sixth-largest supplier of iron ore to the country.
Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research expects Sierra Leone’s iron output to reach 12.8 million tonnes in 2022, registering an 80% growth from the 7.1 million tonnes produced in 2021.
Sierra Leone’s iron ore sector is currently reviving after output dropped over 2015-2018 and almost halted in 2019-2020 following the drop in iron ore prices and legal disputes between miners and the government.
The restart of the production mainly drives the growth at Tonkolili and the Marampa mines, which had previously been halted.
However, Fitch sees downside risks to projects and production in the country from falling iron ore prices since the second half of 2021.