Mining: Bauxite project gets green light.

Australian firm Canyon Resources has decided to proceed with the development of its Minim Martap bauxite mine in Adamawa Region in northern Cameroon. Bauxite is the principle raw material used in aluminium production.

The firm has completed the venture's pre-feasibility study and decided on the best strategy to export ore from the mine. Two options were under consideration: using the existing Camrail railway that runs from close to the mine to the port of Douala or building a spur line from the railway to the new deep-water port of Kribi.

The former has the advantage of an existing rail link but Douala has a very shallow draft and so cannot accommodate large bulk carriers; so the bauxite would have to be loaded on to barges to be carried out to waiting vessels and then transferred. This process increases the cost and time required.

By contrast, Kribi is a more modern port and its deep-water harbour has double the draft at 16m, but there is currently no rail link and it would be expensive to transfer it by road. In both cases, it appears that the bauxite would be exported as ore for refining into alumina and then used in aluminium production at its final destination, with China an obvious target market.

Canyon has now opted for a two-pronged approach. It will ship the ore out of Douala in phase one, generating revenue to help finance the rest of the project.

At the same time, work will begin on building a 130km spur line to Kribi from the main railway. Once this is built, exports will be switched to the newer port.

Canyon reported: "The consistent high quality of the Minim Martap bauxite mine offsets the cost of rail haulage, supports efficient refining by the end user and sets the platform for further upside potential."

Developing the project could also generate the revenue to enable Canyon to develop its Ngaoundal bauxite deposit, which lies adjacent to Minim Martap.

The company increased its reserves estimate on the deposit from 550m tonnes to 892m tonnes last November. The prefeasibility study calculated average operating expenses of $35.i/tonne, with anticipated production of 5m tonnes a year.

Although other new mining projects are planned in Cameroon, Minim Martap will be the first, so there is plenty of spare capacity on the railway. It is not expected that any infrastructural upgrades will be needed, although some new cargo handling equipment will obviously be required. A feasibility study has now been launched to determine the...

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