Liberia railway track

LIBERIA: Mine development company High Power Exploration and the Liberian government have signed an amended framework agreement for the Nimba Iron Ore Project in southeast Guinea to make use of existing and expanded rail and port infrastructure in Liberia.

The framework announced on March 31 sets out a timetable for the implementation of a definitive concession and access agreement before the end of March 2023.

The government would provide HPX with access to the port at Buchanan and the state-owned 273 km Buchanan – Tokadeh – Yekepa railway, facilitating technical and commercial terms for HPX to share the existing 1 435 mm gauge infrastructure with operating concessionaire ArcelorMittal and undertake works to increase capacity. HPX would pay access fees to the government as the owner of the line.

The Tokadeh – Yekepa section of the route which was abandoned in 1992 would be rehabilitated, and a 2 km extension built to the border with Guinea, connecting with a new line to the proposed nearby mine.

HPX and the government have agreed that freight and passenger services will be an integral part of the railway from the commencement of expanded operations, with ore traffic estimated at 30 mtpa by 2027.

The framework builds on a 2019 bilateral agreement between Liberia and Guinea securing the use of Liberian infrastructure by Guinean mining operators, and a right of access to the Yekepa – Buchanan corridor which the Liberian government granted to HPX in August 2021.

Liberia railway map and Ivanhoe mine project

A preliminary feasibility study led by Hatch, SRK Consulting (UK), Fluor, Golder Associates, China Harbour Engineering Co, China Railway Liuyuan Group and CCCC First Harbour Consultants in 2021 estimated the total cost of developing the mining project at US$2·77bn, with the capital costs for rail and port development in Liberia estimated at more than US$600m, assuming construction starts in 2023.

‘This framework agreement for access to critical Liberian port and rail infrastructure is an important step forward in making the Guinean Nimba Iron Ore Project a reality’, said Guy de Selliers, Chairman of HPX’s local subsidiary Ivanhoe Liberia.

‘Together with the government, I really look forward to working co-operatively alongside ArcelorMittal to accelerate the development of both our Guinean Nimba Iron Ore Project and the planned expansion of their Liberian operations for the benefit of the Guinean and Liberian people, including as users of a passenger and freight rail service.’