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SAPRO in talks with French banks for Mayoko iron ore project railway funding

The Republic of the Congo-based SAPRO SA is negotiating with a consortium of French banks to fund the 450-kilometer railway track that will link its Mayoko iron ore project to a port at Pointe Noire, Bloomberg News reported May 17.

The company has invested about US$550 million in Mayoko operations, which it acquired from Exxaro Resources Ltd. for US$350 million in 2016.

SAPRO owner Paul Obambi said railway construction is expected to start in 2019 and be completed by 2022, without giving the total costs.

Obambi told the newswire that the mine delivered 3 million tonnes of iron ore in 2017, and the export of the material helped SAPRO generate a US$1.5 million profit from iron ore.

"We expect to reach 5 million tonnes at the end of this year," he said, adding that plans for expansion at Mayoko will lift output to about 150 million tonnes. Increasing output to that level would place the African country among the world's leading iron ore producers.

The exports of the steelmaking ingredient will be shipped through Pointe Noire and a port at Owendo in neighboring country Gabon.