Topics CoveredWelcome to GabonOverview of ResourcesMetalsIndustrial MineralsFossil FuelsInvestmentSources
Welcome to Gabon
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Gabon is located in Central Africa between Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea. The total area of the country is 267,667 km2 and it has a population of 1,608,321 as of July 2012. The country’s climate is mainly tropical with constant hot and humid conditions.
|The national flag of Gabon.|
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.
Gabon gained its independence in 1960 and has been maintaining better political and economic stability compared to many of the other African nations. It is a country rich in natural resources such as diamond, gold, petroleum, natural gas, niobium, cement, phosphate rock, manganese, uranium, and iron ore. The GDP of the country in 2011 was recorded as $24.89 billion.
Income inequality, poor fiscal management, and declining oil production have hampered economic growth of the country in the recent years. However, efforts are being made to increase transparency in government operations and policies so as to promote investment that will aid in the diversification of the economy. The government also plans to invest in human resources and infrastructure.
Overview of Resources
Manganese and petroleum production dominate Gabon’s mining activities. In 2010, the country was the 4th leading producer of manganese in the world with 11% of the world’s total production. Manganese production increased by 64% to 3.2 million Mt that year.
Almost 75% of the Gabon’s total exports, 60% of government income, and 40% of the country’s GDP was attributed to its production of crude petroleum. The production increased from 83,950 bbl in 2009 to 89,425 bbl in 2010.
Gabon’s import and export statistics for 2010 includes exports to the United States, which was valued at $2.2 billion in comparison to $1.2 billion in 2009 and about 96% of these exports comprised petroleum. The imports from the United States also increased in value to $243 million in 2010 from $171 million in 2009.
The map of Gabon. Image Credit: CIA Factbook
A joint venture established between Africa-based Managem International A.G. and SearchGold Resources Inc. of Canada procured exploration and mining rights in 2010 to develop the Bakoudou-Magnima gold project with an area of 2,934 km2. The open pit mine is expected to produce 1,300 kg/yr of gold for three and a half years.
In the same year, OAO Severstal Resources of Russia acquired 16.5% interest in Core Mining Ltd. of the British Virgin Islands, while Core Mining Ltd. via its subsidiary Core Mining Gabon SRL procured 100% interest in the Kango project. A feasibility study is underway and is expected to be completed this year. The company believes that the Kango project will yield 1 Mt/yr of ore within the first 18 months of operation and will increase to 5 Mt/yr thereafter. By 2015, the production is expected to reach 20 Mt/yr.
Eramet Group of France, the government of Gabon, and a private investor jointly own Compagnie Minière de l’Ogooué S.A. (Comilog) with 67.25%, 25.4%, and 7.35% interest in the company, respectively. In 2010, Eramet and the government struck an agreement to increase the government’s interest by 10% to reach 35.4% by 2015.
The Moanda manganese plant owned by Eramet was in the construction phase in 2010. An investment of almost $300 million has been made by the company towards this project. It has also opened up employment opportunities to about 1000 people. The production capacity of this plant would be 20,000 Mt/yr of manganese metal and 65,000 t/yr of silicomanganese metal.
Compagnie Industrielle et Commerciale des Mines de Huazhou (CICMHZ), a subsidiary of Citic Resources Holdings Ltd. of China, has signed a mining rights agreement with the government to develop the M’Bembele manganese mine. This mine has adequate reserves to produce about 800,000 t/yr of manganese in the first two years after operations begin and later increase the production to 1.0 Mt/yr for the next 30 years.
Heidelberg Cement Group of Germany, with a 75% interest in Société des Ciments du Gabon (Cimgabon), is the country’s only cement producer. Heidelberg had plans to increase production capacity to 700,000 t/yr from 2010 onwards.
In August 2010, Total S.A., using its subsidiary Total Gabon S.A., struck a deal with Texas-based VAA LCO Energy, Inc., by which Total obtained 50% interest in the Mutamba Iroru exploration license. Together the companies plan to start drilling operations in one of the exploration wells this year. Total also made a similar deal with Perenco Group (operator) of UK to obtain 30% interest in the DE7 exploration license and a 20% interest in the Nziembou exploration license.
However, Total’s petroleum production decreased to 52,800 bbl/d from 56,500 bbl/d in 2009. This decrease was due to the depletion of reserves in the Baudroie Nord Marine, Anguille, and Grondin oilfields.
Bowleven plc of UK owns a 100% equity interest in the EOV Block offshore and a 50% equity interest in the Epaemeno Block onshore.
The Gabonese government is working hard to showcase the country as a mineral rich destination and to attract investments. Apart from upgrading its transport infrastructure, the government has also signed up with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). A validation report from the EITI will be a good start for the mining sector in attracting foreign investments, as the EITI is a voluntary global compact that aims to reinforce good governance by enhancing economic transparency and responsibility in the mining sector.
The non-fuel mineral sector will likely continue to be profitable to the government in the coming years as there are many new projects.
Some of the key upcoming project plans are listed below:
- Development of a new manganese plant
- Expansion of the only cement producer in the country
- Development prospects of iron ore, gold, and manganese reserves.
The demand for construction materials, especially cement and sand, will greatly increase in the next five years as there are several infrastructure development projects underway in the country.
AREVA’s mining opportunities in Gabon is increasing with the four recently acquired mineral exploration permits, each of which covers 2,000 km2. These exploration permits are located in the country’s promising mining areas of N'Goutou, Andjogo, Mopia, and Lekabi. The company is conducting uranium exploration campaigns as it has been authorized by the Ministry of Mines to resume uranium prospecting activities. It has set up AREVA Gabon to undertake the construction of a manganese plant.
Similarly, another global mining leader, Volta Mining of Australia acquired the Mbombo Iron Ore Project this August. The company considered Gabon as a good destination to conduct mining activities as it is geographically well located near the coast, and also because the political situation is stable and the government is open to foreign investments.
Gabon is certainly on its way to realizing its goal of diversifying its mineral sector and developing its economy at a better pace than before.
Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.