Last February African Minerals Limited (AML) contracted Jan de Nul to re-establish a navigation channel along the Sierra Leone River from Pepel to Freetown Sierra Leone. The channel will allow passage of HandyMax Bulk carriers from the Pepel loading jetty to the offshore transshipment area as part of AML’s Tonkolili Iron Ore Project 200 km inland from the coast.
HandyMax carriers are 40000 to 50000 dwt self-unloading ships that will move iron ore from the shallow draft Pepel port to bulk carriers anchored in deep water at Freetown. To fulfill the requirement for pre- and post-dredging hydrographic surveys AML contracted Anthony D. Bates Partnership (ADBP) a multi-faceted consultancy headquartered in Axbridge Somerset England to supervise all surveys including pre-dredge post-dredge and interim surveys required in the course of the project.
ADBP began surveying in early February 2011 prior to the hopper dredge James Cook starting work. Jan de Nul completed the dredging in approximately four weeks. ADBP managers and surveyors were onsite for 35 days.
The completion of the channel paved the way for the new mine’s first trial ore shipment on November 4. The shipment was a test of a mine-rail-port infrastructure developed by AML to develop what is said to be the third-largest magnetite deposit in the world. The mine is expected to have a life of 45 years and is the object of intense construction and investment efforts on the part of the owners.
Phase II of the project expected to begin after 2013 includes construction of a deepwater port at Tagrin Point at the seaward end of the estuary. At that time a spur railroad line will be built from Pepel to Tagrin Point to allow shipment of the ore directly to deepwater bulk carriers.
Projected output for Phase I in 2012 is 15 million metric tons (a metric ton is 2240 pounds). The Phase I infrastructure includes the mine and processing facilities construction of a new railroad from the mine to the town of Lunsar and rebuilding an existing railroad from Lunsar to the port of Pepel as well as dredging the channel from Pepel to Freetown.
AML was formerly Sierra Leone Diamond Company Limited.