International iron ore exploration and development company Sundance Resources is reinvigorating development of its flagship Mbalam-Nabeba iron ore project which straddles the Cameroon/Republic of Congo border in West Africa, and aims ‒ at a capital cost of over US$5 billion ‒ to produce 35Mtpa of iron ore for at least 30 years.
Sundance has a 90% interest in its Cameroon subsidiary company Cam Iron SA, and an 85% interest in its Congo subsidiary Congo Iron SA, owners of Mbalam-Nabeba. Each of the governments has a 10% free carry stake in the relevant companies.
Perth-based Sundance is focused on building a global iron ore business through the development of its flagship Mbalam-Nabeba iron ore project. The project is based around a group of iron ore deposits crossing the border of Cameroon and the Republic of Congo in central West Africa.
The Mbalam-Nabeba project is an integrated mine, port and rail project. Stage one (the first ten years) will be focused on producing Direct Shipping Ore-quality high grade hematite. The second stage of the mine life will be the continued production at 35Mtpa of ltabirite Hematite for at least a further 20 years.
With the project essentially fully permitted and high quality resources and ore reserves defined, sourcing the funds required for the stage one integrated mine, rail and port project is the current key focus.
Term sheets have been issued and tenders are due for construction of the port and rail network, while financing proposals considering infrastructure asset sales and joint ventures are also progressing. Sundance has recently raised $40 million via the placement of convertible notes to commodities marketing group Noble Resources and a sophisticated global investor consortium, which provides the required working capital to finalise the funding process.
“The challenge lies in financing the infrastructure that is required to develop this significant greenfields project and Sundance is pursuing large business groups for product off-take, joint venture and asset sales initiatives which will result in this hurdle being cleared. We anticipate the funding process to reach a climax in the March 2014 quarter, and we believe that the company’s key personnel have the attributes to deliver value-accretive transactions,” Sundance added.
Phase Two will involve development of a larger scale mining operation that exploits the underlying itabirite resource, and will employ standard grinding and flotation to beneficiate the ore into a premium concentrate product with around 47% weight recovery to deliver 66% Fe. Early estimates say this project will require an additional US$3.1billion of capex, and will produce final product for US$40/t and commence production once Stage One is completed.
The project hosts a high-grade mineral resource of 775Mt at 57.2% Fe, which includes 436.3Mt of ore reserves at 62.6% Fe with low impurities levels. The definitive feasibility study (DFS) conducted in 2011 illustrated robust economics with capex of US$4.7billion and estimated cash operating costs before royalty payments of US$21.20/t for a 35Mtpa operation.
Additionally the project area hosts an Itabirite resource of 4,047Mt at 36.3% Fe, which has a demonstrable beneficiation process that produces a 66% Fe concentrate via fine grinding and flotation.