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Republic of Congo exports first ever iron ore shipment in bulk

Singapore — The Republic of Congo officially exported its first ever cargo of iron ore on Friday, with the Ivy Ocean loading around 22,000 mt of iron ore lump containing 65% iron from Pointe Noire.

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This shipment is bound for a Chinese steel mill, according to Ashley Global Shipping, the partner to Sapro Myoko, which is a major mining group in the country. The contract will be based on Platts 62 Fe Fines IODEX plus VIU Adjustment and Platts Lump Premium assessment.

BST Hong Kong, acting as the partner and sales agent to Ashley Global Shipping, said the potential demand from China for such high-grade cargoes from Congo will be strong due to environmental concerns.

Furthermore, Vale's dam incident this year is believed to potentially create some void in supply of high-grade iron ore. Dejan Minic, Director of BST Hong Kong, said these high-grade Congolese cargos would meet the gap on April 23.

The iron ore is mined from the Exxaro mine in Congo, managed by Sapro Group. The Republic of Congo is a country with substantial reserves of high-grade iron ore. However, not much development has been made due to massive logistical and investment challenges.

On April 22, Ashley Global told Platts by phone that it would focus on marketing Mayoko calibrated lump with iron ore sinter-feed fines during the dry seasons in Congo. London-based trader Ashley Global said it expects Congo to become a major player in the international iron ore market in the next five years.

The director of trading at Ashley Global, Roddy Mann, said this first shipment is a trial shipment proving Congo's resourcefulness and believe this development will have significant economic impact for Congo and the Myoko region, which is 400 km (248 miles) from the port.

Ashley Global is also optimistic about entering into strategic alliances with partners in Asia and Europe.

As part of the phase one expansion, Sapro and Asheley Global are looking at ramping-up of volumes by improving the existing rail link and locomotives, and accelerating rail wagon unloading.

Looking ahead, they expect to load one Handymax vessel a month for the next six months, with a production target of 2 million mt in 2020. This is expected to go up to 5 million mt in 2021 and 12 million mt in 2022, as part of the phase two expansion, which will involve major new investment in rail and port facilities, allowing exports of iron ore of 20 million mt/year.

-- Joseph Tong, Joseph.tong@spglobal.com

-- Vikash Tharad, vikash.tharad@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Leech, newsdesk@spglobal.com