HomeGoldGold mining in Gabon takes centre stage

Gold mining in Gabon takes centre stage

Gabon – Gold mining in Gabon is claiming its place in the sun, next to the oil and gas industry with the help of Gabon’s state-owned mining company Société Equatoriale des Mines (SEM), also known as Gabon Mining, who is in the process of developing four gold deposits in the country. The Camp 6 gold project located in the Bélinga area in north-east Gabon is the most advanced.

Pursuant in the mission to actively participate in the development of Gabon’s mining potential, SEM has been actively exploring and promoting its mining licence areas, as it believes that discovering and exploiting new deposits is indeed a prerequisite to sustainable mining in Gabon.

Formed by a presidential decree in 2011 to facilitate the development of Gabon’s mineral resources, SEM has been undertaking exploration at its four gold exploration projects, namely the Kolissen gold project in the Moyen-Ogooué province; the Mavenza gold project, also located in the Moyen Ogooué province; the Lombo Bouenguidi gold project in the Ogooué- Lolo province and the Camp 6 gold project in the Ogooué-Ivindo province.

Camp 6 update

SEM has undertaken prospecting activities for gold, which will expire in March 2016, at the greenfield Camp 6 gold project since May 2014.

While still a Greenfield operation, comprehensive exploration work was previously conducted in this area for iron and some alluvial gold placers had been mined in the 1950s – producing 1 t of alluvial gold.

Exploration undertaken by SEM has indicated two types of gold mineralisation namely alluvial placer gold in a 2.5 km-long and 300 m-wide stream hosting about 110 kg of alluvial gold and banded iron formations (BIF) hosting gold mineralisation.

Based on the sampling work conducted during trenching last year, alluvial gold material with an average grade of 2.4 g/t was discovered, while a drilling campaign, to be undertaken in the coming months, will help delineate the BIF-bearing gold mineralisation contours.

Work already undertaken at the Camp 6 project included geolocical mapping, trenching and sampling of gold from quartz sand, 26.4 m of pitting and sampling for geochemistry and the shipping of six samples for petrographic analysis.

SEM CEO Fabrice Nze-Bekale says SEM’s 2015 exploration plan includes obtaining an improved resource estimation of alluvial gold in the stream, establishing a small-scale alluvial gold mining operation by the end of the year and undertaking a 300 m drilling campaign of shallow drill holes to define the geological resources of the BIF-hosting gold mineralisation.

An initial US$500 000 was used for exploration and development last year. Nze-Bekale highlights that SEM still has a budget of $1 million to take the project forward, but may only require $400 000 for the completion of the project.  Despite this, SEM will require additional funding as the project progresses and ramps up and is as a result actively looking for investors going forward.

Gabon as a mining destination

Nze-Bekale says Gabon is open for mining, adding that SEM is keen to partner with the private sector as a catalyst for the development of Gabon’s mining sector.

The natural wealth of Gabon includes deposits of gold, manganese and iron-ore. There is also exploration being undertaken into new natural resources including titanium, copper, rare earths, phosphates and potash.

He further comments that  Gabon has significant  political  and  social  stability,  and  is  implementing  a  new  inclusive  and  sustainable development model and mining code.

The government of Gabon is working to ensure that a larger percent of its natural resource wealth is channelled into the national economy, while also aiming to diversify its economy through the Industrial Gabon Development Plan which aims to quadruple the mining sectors contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

Meanwhile, Gabon has promulgated a new mining code based on international best practices which is intended to increase visibility with regard to regulation and add new incentives for exploration and investment.

The new mining code emphasises exploration, the setting up of long-term partnerships, with investment of the government, the industrialisation with the local beneficiation of natural resources, the consideration of the environment and the local communities throughout the mining project’s life.

Further, the measures taken for investors include simpler granting procedures for exploration permits, tax and customs incentives during the exploration and early exploitation phases, a tax regime customised to the complexity of the projects, securing investments through a transparent management of the rights, and the development of a model convention in order to simplify administrative procedures.

Nze-Bekale concludes that overall Gabon as a mining destination remains very competitive as far as the conditions in which to operate compared to the other countries in the region.

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Chantelle Kotze
Chantelle Kotze is a Johannesburg-based media professional. She is a contributor at Mining Review Africa (Clarion Events - Africa) and has created content for the media brand over the past 6 years.