VIDEO: ArcelorMittal iron ore ramp-up heralds Liberian mining boom

Liberia is shaking off the dust of decades of war to become one of Africa’s most popular new mining destinations.

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The past year has seen a raft of major international miners step into the Liberian iron ore space, 20 years after civil war halted the country’s mining industry.

Russian steel major Severstal bought iron ore junior Afferro’s 38.5% stake in the Putu project in late 2012 and is now in full control of the 13km iron-rich ridge in south-eastern Liberia with a resource of 4.4 billion tonnes of iron ore. 

Sesa Goa, a subsidiary of Indian mining major Vedanta, plans to ship its first iron ore from its Western Cluster project in March 2014. Sesa Goa took full control of Western Cluster after buying the remaining 49% stake in the project for $33.5 million last year.

Indian steel major Jindal Steel & Power (JSP) entered into talks with the Liberian government in May in a bid to acquire the licence for the $2 billion Wologozi iron ore concession in Lofa county.

All follow on the heels of ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, which became Liberia’s first post-war investor when it bought up the abandoned assets of Liberian-American-Swedish Minerals Company (Lamco).

Mining is now driving the growth of the Liberia economy, according to the International Monetary Fund, which pegged the country’s 8.3% gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2012 on income from the mining sector.

ArcelorMittal is pushing ahead with its $1.5 billion Liberia iron ore ramp up plan, which aims to increase output from its Yekepa mine to 15 million tpy by 2015.

But Liberia boasts not only mineral wealth, but a rich ecology, temperate rainforests and one of the highest levels of average monthly rainfall of any iron ore producing country.

Steel First’s Michelle Madsen visited Yekepa to find out how the ArcelorMittal planned to ramp-up output in challenging conditions.