CONGO: Mining group Sapro has finalised an agreement with the Thelo DB joint venture for the construction and operation of a 412 km heavy haul railway to connect its Mayoko iron ore mine with the deepwater port of Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic coast.

The agreement was signed by Sapro Mayoko Chief Executive Paul Obambi and Thelo DB CEO Ronny Ntouli at a ceremony in Brazzaville on July 10, attended by Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation & Maritime Jean Marc Thystère Tchicaya. Development of the rail link is expected to take around five years.

The joint venture between Deutsche Bahn Engineering & Consulting and South African investment group Thelo Ventures was formed to supporting the development of new railways and the revitalisation of existing networks; it signed a memorandum of understanding with Afreximbank in Johannesburg in November 2019.

Valued at FrCFA600m, the agreement between Sapro and Thelo DB envisages the rehabilitation of the first 182 km of the existing 1 067 mm gauge Chemin de Fer Congo-Océan from Pointe-Noire and the construction of a new line to Mayoko, which is located in the north of the country, close to the border with Gabon. The deposit is believed to contain about 580 million tonnes of haematite ore. Sapro bought the mine from South Africa’s Exxaro DMC in 2016, with the aim of ramping up production from around 3 million tonnes a year to 12 million, and eventually 30 million.

Earlier this year, CFCO suspended operations on its 285 km branch from Mont-Bélo to Mbinda, around 20 km from Mayoko. That line had originally been built by Comilog in 1962 to serve mines in southern Gabon, to which it was connected by a cableway. The cross-border link was closed in 1986 following completion of the Trans-Gabon railway.