Angola to export first iron ore since the 1970s

The first shipment of iron ore to leave Angola since 1976 left the Cutato mine in Cuando Cubango province by rail on April 10-11, according to Jamie van Reijendam, general manager of global trade at London trading house Ronly

The 60,000-tonne shipment of 60-62% Fe Cutato lump is due to be exported from the southern port of Namibe in May, he said.

Ronly has been involved with the Companhia Siderúrgica do Cuchi (CSC) project in the southern African country as financier since 2019 and has exclusive offtake rights.

CSC’ majority shareholder, Brazil’s Modulax Indústria e Comércio (Modulax), has been developing the project since 2015 and started operations at the Cutato mine at the start of 2021.

CSC is a public-private joint venture, formed in 2015, between the Angolan state-owned company Ferrangoland, the Sociedade Mineradora Cuando Cubango (the Cuando Cubango Mining Company) and Modulax.

The Cutato mine has estimated reserves of more than 120 million tonnes of iron ore.

“The first cargo will almost certainly go to China due to the liquidity [in that market] and the country’s growing desire to [reduce its reliance on] Australia,” Van Reijendam said.

He added that smaller vessels would be sought to make it easier to ship material via the Yangtze river distribution system in China.

As output is scaled up, Ronly said, cargoes would also to be exported into European and South East Asian mills.

Ronly said the Cutato mine will have export about 3 million tonner per year once operating at full capacity, with 600,000-720,000 tonnes of Cutato lump expected to be shipped in 2021 and a target of around 1.5 million tonnes set for 2022.

Fastmarkets’ index for iron ore 63% Fe Australia-origin lump ore premium, cfr Qingdao was at $0.5750 per dry metric tonne unit (dmtu) on Friday April 16, down $0.0150 per dmtu from $0.5900 per dmtu on Thursday.

Angola was a major iron ore exporter between 1957 and 1975, where iron ore was mined at the Cassinga mine in Huila province, but reserves at the mine have been largely depleted and the main rail line connecting the mine to Namibe port was destroyed during the civil war. Cassinga produced 40 million tonnes of iron ore (with an Fe content of 50-60 percent) between 1957 and 1975, with 6.1 million tonnes produced in 1974 alone.

Angola reconstituted its state-owned mining operation in 2005 in a bid to attract foreign investment to revive the mining sector in the country.

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