Interview: Pietro Amico
How can value-added activities be encouraged?
PIETRO AMICO: The first sine qua non condition for industries such as metallurgy is the supply of energy at a sustainable competitive price, in particular electricity. Second is the availability of expertise. Anyone who considers processing activities knows that this stage goes beyond the typical mining activities well in place in the country. As the industry moves forward, skilled and qualified human capital is needed: operators, technicians, engineers and managers. To respond to this demand, the state of Gabon and Comilog have entered in a partnership to create the Mining and Metallurgy School of Moanda (EMMM), which is expected to open by the beginning of 2016 to train technicians and engineers.
The third necessity is logistics. Once the industry aims to transform products, we need to import reagents and equipment, and export manufactured commodities. In this regard, all infrastructure facilities should be upgraded to absorb the new in and out traffic. Sector dynamics are set to change and Gabon’s competitiveness as a mineral and downstream materials producer will rise significantly. On top of this, it is key to consolidate a trustful partnership with the Gabonese state.
What impact will Moanda’s industrial division have on domestic processing of manganese?
AMICO: For the first time in the history of the Gabonese mining industry, we are producing value-added manufactured products using state-of-the-art technology. Some 20,000 tonnes of manganese metal and 65,000 tonnes of silicomanganese are being produced, started in August 2014. This production is expected to have a positive impact on local consumption of ore from our mine, on the direct and indirect job markets, and should develop the local offering of services and suppliers. It will also foster exports, mainly to international markets. Ensuring the competitiveness and profitability of the new industrial division depends on a reliable and competitive electricity supply, the integration of this new unit into Moanda’s existing operations, and the control of logistics costs. Regarding the electricity supply, the state has made a significant step forward to enable the development of downstream activities in the area with the erection of the Grand Poubarra dam.
What are Gabon’s strengths in the mining sector?
AMICO: Gabon finds itself in the first phase of industrialisation and diversification, and the downstream of the mining sector is expected to be a key driver of development. This means there are many opportunities. To successfully complete this move, there has to be a clear regulatory and tax framework. The new mining and environment codes will significantly contribute to this. Apart from being rich in quality minerals, Gabon has surface mines that facilitate exploration and exploitation activities. There is also a strong vision from the government, included in the Emerging Gabon strategic plan, that aims to foster collaboration between political leaders and economic players.
What are the country’s main constraints in terms of transportation and infrastructure?
AMICO: As mentioned, logistics infrastructure is key in terms of capacity and cost for the development of downstream activities. A major corridor of transport across the country is the Transgabonese Railway, whose concession has been granted to Setrag. To cope with increasing demand from civil society and industry players, and to enable new mining projects in the country, the cooperation between the state and our group is being strengthened to align vision and action plans and secure financing around a shared vision of a competitive, sustainable, reliable and environmentally friendly railway. In parallel, the development of multi-modal alternatives such as river and road transportation should be studied. The Libreville-Franceville road and the fluvial option for the Maboumine project are good examples. The more the industry focuses on upstream, the more the country will need to develop its entrance and exit gateways, and also upgrade its port facilities.
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