Exploring Gabon, a mineral-rich Central African country

MSK’s Ferro Alloys Testing capacity in Gabon with a laboratory there

Gabon’s Wealth

Gabon, is an upper-middle-income country on the western coast of Africa. It has maintained a strong economic growth over the past decade, driven by its production of oil and manganese. With the second largest deposit of manganese in the world, Gabon is currently the world’s third largest producer of manganese and accounts for roughly 11% of Gabon’s total exports.

The high-grade manganese deposits at Moanda, near Franceville, are among the world’s richest. Reserves were estimated at 250 million tons with a metal content of 48%–52%. Before nationalization, Manganese was exploited by the Mining Co. of L’Ougoué (Comilog, an international consortium), which ranked among the world’s lowest-cost producers. In 2004, an estimated 2.4 million metric tons of metallurgical-grade ore were extracted, up from 1.95 million metric tons in 2003. Annual production capacity at the Moanda Mine was 2.5 million tons, which amounts to around $5,442,000,000 a year, with reserves estimated to last 100 years.

Manganese is an important element that helps to remove Oxygen and Sulphur from iron ore (an iron and oxygen compound) during extraction of iron from the ore. It is an essential element in the process of making steel less brittle and imparting it strength. The fact that the iron and steel industry makes for a basis for the development of a number of industries in the global economy and to the growth of national economy, Manganese, as an essential ingredient in making of steel is a significantly important element.

In this context, the government of Gabon has a keen focus on Manganese industry and has diversified the mining companies operating in Gabon. Africa is expected to ramp up production in 2021 and 2022, following a production reduction in 2020, particularly in South Africa (increased production at Mokala Mines & Kalagadi sintering plant), Gabon (announced production increase by Eramet) and Ghana’s production resumption.

In 2021, global manganese ore production is expected to increase by 7.6Mt, reflecting a post-pandemic recovery and additional supply from new projects in Australia, South Africa and Brazil. In 2022, global ore output is expected to increase further by 5.5Mt.

The turnover of Eramet was up 8% in Q1 2021, driven by the strong growth of the Mining and Metals division. There was a rise of 17% in Manganese ore production in Q1 2021 as opposed to 1.5 Mt in Manganese ore produced in Q1 2020 in Gabon.