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A Pan African Minerals executive confirmed Watling’s appointment but did not disclose when he joined the company.

Watling was previously ceo of Timis-owned, Sierra Leone-focused iron ore miner African Minerals. He made a sudden departure from the miner in May 2012 after three years at its helm.

Watling has held executive positions at iron ore majors Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group, and was md of the York Potash project at Sirius Minerals from July 2012 until February 2013.

African Minerals founder and executive chairman Timis took over the role of ceo at the miner when Watling left the company.

At the time, Timis said that he understood and supported Watling’s “desire to retire after his success at African Minerals”.

Watling oversaw the development of African Minerals’ Marampa project in Sierra Leone from greenfield project to a fully functioning rail, port and mining operation. African Minerals is now the largest iron ore producer in West Africa.

“If you look at what African Minerals achieved, you can see that Watling has the proven experience to take projects into production,” Investec Securities mining analyst Hunter Hillcoat told Steel First.

Timis stepped down as African Minerals ceo in July 2012, naming Western Coal ceo Keith Calder his replacement.

Pan African Minerals has iron ore and manganese interests in Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

It also won a contract to develop a minerals export terminal in Cote D’Ivoire earlier this year.

The deal is part of a wider infrastructure plan which will see the mining company develop a 600km-plus iron ore infrastructure corridor connecting two iron ore deposits in the Dix-Huit Montagnes region to San Pedro, which is Cote d’Ivoire’s second largest port.

Romanian-Australian mining magnate Timis also has oil and gas interests in the region, and is developing energy projects off the coast of the Cote d’Ivoire with another West Africa-focused venture, the African Petroleum Co.