South Africa’s Menar clinches mining MoU with government of Gabon

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Africa’s consistently advancing mining investment company…


JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Africa’s consistently advancing mining investment company Menar has signed a memorandum of agreement with the government of Gabon.

“We think that Gabon is one of the promising countries when it comes to investments in mining, especially manganese and iron-ore,” Menar MD Vuslat Bayoglu highlighted during a Zoom interview with Mining Weekly. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

“We’ve been looking at doing things in Gabon for a while, and we did our homework and we ended up signing an MoU. We haven’t gone further than that yet. But soon, we’re hoping to have a visit to the country and start talking with the relevant government authorities to look at what is available and what we can do in terms of prospecting for manganese and iron-ore, which is part of our diversification strategy.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to add a nice project in one of these ferrous metals in Gabon,” said Bayoglu.

“There was a change of government. As you know, there was a coup in the country. But they reorganised as mining is a very important revenue maker for the country.

“They know that South Africa is a great mining culture, so they appreciate that we’re showing interest and they’re very responsive. From time to time, there are some issues, some glitches, but in general, they’re very good in terms of responding to our requests or our questions.

Mining Weekly: And you managed to speak to key members of the Gabon government face to face at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

Bayoglu: Yes, I did. I had the one-on-one meeting with them at the Mining Indaba and we’re planning to visit Gabon in June.

GUGULETHU PROJECT

Meanwhile, in South Africa, investment in Gugulethu Colliery project has been completed, with opencast mining under way and infrastructure built.

“We processed our first run-of-mine about three weeks ago and we’re currently at the point of trying to ramp up to steady state,” Bayoglu said.

At steady state, the colliery will be employing 410 people. “ We’re employing people from the local community. We’ve already trained 41 new young male and female operators, so it’s exciting for the community and it’s exciting for the company to see the project progressing well.

“We had some delays in the project because of rain and believe it or not, at some point, it snowed in that area. We’re trying to catch up and it’s looking very promising and we’re hoping to reach the steady state in three months’ time. Everything is going according to plan and we’re expecting to move the first coal to the port in two to three weeks,” Bayoglu added.

On the rail logistics front, South Africa has seen the private sector stepping up to assist the State-run Transnet Freight Rail. How impactful do you think these public-private interventions will be?

The collaboration between Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) and Transnet Freight Rail is working quite well. We actually started to help with security because one of the big issues is cable theft and that actually helped Transnet to drop the cable theft cases. Then we started talking about batteries and compressors and RBCT shareholders are helping Transnet regarding that point and the collaboration is working very well, which shows that private companies can work with State-owned entities if the will is there. In the last three to four weeks, Transnet Freight Rail consistently transported 1.1-million tonnes per week compared with the levels of 800 000 t to 900 000 t of the past. There’s still a lot to be done because Transnet Freight Rail is targeting to move 60-million tonnes to RBCT this year from coalfields compared with last year’s figure of 47-million tonnes. Even if Transnet Freight Rail does not achieve the 60-million tonnes targeted, I’m still very hopeful that they will do better than last year. The recent changes in management have been very positively received and people who are in charge are very experienced and know what needs to be done. We should never forget the issue of Transnet on the rail side is the availability of locomotives. More locomotives are needed and locomotives that are idle because of spare parts issues need to be brought back into operation. Regarding the joint venture with Kalagadi Manganese, Kalagadi has opened its rapid loading rail siding for especially junior manganese miners. We will be able to use their siding to move product to mainly the port of Gqeberha, which shows the relationship between private and public sectors at work and we need to increase the number of examples such as this one.

Promised at Ministerial level is that South Africa’s mine licensing backlog will be resolved within a year. Do you have confidence that the new licensing system will make the difference necessary to remove the backlog and encourage investment?

Now that the DMRE has got new service providers for the cadastral system, it will get better. All of us in the mining industry want to see a strong DMRE and strong control over these rights because at the end of the day, it’s another way of dealing with property rights. We’re hoping that applications are managed and adjudicated as quickly and as professionally as possible so that nobody is unfairly treated. It’s critical for South Africa to have a good cadastral system and now the DMRE is putting in the effort to make it work. It could have been earlier but let’s agree that it’s happening now. It’s great for the country and we’re hoping that this is going to attract new investors to come to the country to do more exploration. We all know that South Africa has got great potential beyond what we are mining that we can diversify into different minerals, but we definitely need new investors coming to the country or the current investors in the country doing more on the exploration side and this cadastral system will help companies to be more comfortable.



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