Africa’s ‘Pilbara’ needs champion – Investec – by Marin Creamer (MiningWeekly.com – March 27, 2013)

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Cameroon-Congo-Gabon region, often likened to Australia’s iron-ore-rich Pilbara, needs a champion in the mould of Fortescue founder Andrew Forrest to assemble companies, governments, financiers and end-users in a region that could give the iron-ore top-three a run for their money.

Investec Securities analysts Hunter Hillcoat and Marc Elliott speculate whether the possible increased involvement of Glencore could be the start, given the significant expanse of iron-ore mineralisation, including the potential for meaningful direct shipping ore (DSO) volumes.

It offers one of the few opportunities globally for a substantial iron-ore production base outside of that controlled by the top three – Vale, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – yet it remains a long way from production.

Last year, Equatorial Resources CEO John Welborn urged junior iron-ore producers in Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo (ROC) to work together to ensure that export markets could access the region’s minerals, with the Metal Bulletin’s ‘Steel First’ reporting his view that iron-ore exploration companies Sundance Resources, Core Mining and the government of Gabon needed to consolidate to maximise the potential of the rich craton.

“The Congo craton is the new Pilbara of Africa,” Welborn told ‘Steel First’ on the sidelines of the Mines & Money conference in London, adding that the “each company for itself” approach of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton with regard to Pilbara infrastructure was an example of how not to do it.

Consolidation was not only preferable but also inevitable and the optimal solution would see crater operators blending orebodies and sharing infrastructure.

Mining Weekly Online’s Esmarie Swanepoel reports from Perth that the proposed A$1.38-billion takeover of ASX-listed Sundance Resources has found itself on shaky ground after China’s Hanlong Mining gave the Africa-focused iron-ore developer notice that it would miss an important deadline.

Hanlong, which has been struggling to secure a credit-approved term sheet, has given Sundance formal notice that it would not be able to deliver it on deadline.

Sundance told shareholders that the two firms were now required to enter into a five-day good faith consultation period, which would conclude on April 3. If the parties failed to reach an agreement during that period, the scheme implementation agreement could be terminated.

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