Setting sights on the coming decades
The Compagnie minière de l’Ogooué (Comilog) – an Eramet subsidiary since 1996 – began operating the Moanda manganese mine in the east of Gabon in 1962. Nearly 60 years later, the mine is the second most competitive in the world, although the site currently operated, on the Bangombe plateau, is expected to be exhausted in several years' time. The time has come to revitalise operations. After several years of studies, a decision has been made to open a new mine on the Okouma plateau, 13 km to the north of Moanda. This will be supplemented by the construction of a new washing plant that can handle mineral supplies from both Bangombe and Okouma. These major investments will enable us to achieve far greater production volume
The first scoping studies were conducted in 2016. The detailed preliminary design phase began two years later. A project team of around 50 people is currently working on moving it forward. Supported by the combined expertise of Eramet Ideas and Hatch, a Canadian engineering specialist, three priority projects are under way:
- The development of the mine (design, development of dry processing, staff recruitment, equipment purchasing, etc.)
- The construction of new facilities (washing, crushing, storage, etc.)
- The modernisation of several key support facilities for operations, starting with the Moanda mineral station and Owendo port
- 7 MT of products available for sale in 2023 (versus just over 4 MT today)
Goal: to significantly enhance biodiversity
One firm decision is guiding this ambitious project, namely to comply with the very exacting standards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, a World Bank institution). Developing the 2,000 pages of the environmental and societal impact study took several years of work, supported by outside experts. Every effort was made to ensure compliance with the most stringent imperatives linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
- Ongoing dialogue with the authorities, several local NGOs and the populations concerned
- The contribution of participants with a global reputation in biodiversity (Golder, Biotope, Missouri Botanical Garden)
- Conduct of an external audit by an environmental specialist (Ramboll)
The challenge for the teams is to identify solutions for protecting the habitat and food supply of the large primates present in these areas, the diversity of flora, the forest area, etc. and to optimise the mine in light of these constraints. The entire project was devised to avoid impacts as much as possible. In addition, a compensation strategy has been put in place to achieve a positive long-term outcome as far as the species involved are concerned.
This continual focus on protecting the environment, and particularly biodiversity, is being crystallised through measures such as:
- The relocation of the project's water source to the Ogooué River to prevent any risk of interference with the resources used for water supplies in the town of Moanda
- The mine was designed to leave critical animal habitats untouched as much as possible
- A reduction in the 383 hectare surface area following all of the modifications made
- 350 direct jobs will be created to run the project.