- The first copper and gold mine of Mauritania has been officially inaugurated by President Ely Ould Mohamed Vall in a ceremony near the northern desert town of Akjoujt. Small-scale production by the Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals started already in 2005.
First Quantum had been ready to operate its mine at Guelb Moghrein commercially already late last year, but had been unable to produce missing engineering and resource reports to the Nouakchott government for final approval. By now, however, both paper works and physical installations had been completed.
The occasion was important enough for outgoing President Ould Vall to honour the Canadian-Mauritanian consortium with an inauguration visit at the remote mine. Colonel Ould Vall praised the investors and noted the great importance of mining to the Mauritanian economy in his inauguration speech.
Guelb Moghrein is located 250 kilometres northeast of the nation's capital, Nouakchott, near the desert town of Akjoujt, in central Mauritania, and is accessible by paved highway. It consists of an open pit minerable copper and gold deposit.
The decision to mine the copper and gold deposits at the Guelb Moghrein mine was finalised in July 2004, when the Government of Mauritania signed an agreement approving the involvement of First Quantum in the development of the mine. The agreement cleared the way for a new company to be formed, beneficially owned 80 percent by the Canadian company and 20 percent by Mauritania's Guelb Moghrein Mines d'Akjoujt SA.
Up to 500 employees have been involved in the construction phase at Guelb Moghrein, with a large proportion of the work being carried out by Mauritanian contractors. Once in full production, the mine is expected to employ approximately 200 Mauritanians. Apart from the opportunity for employment, the residents of Akjoujt are to benefit from the upgrading of both power and water supplies, and the general increase in commercial activity.
Commercial production at the mine started already in October last year, when the plant had reached a producing rate of approximately 1,650 tonnes of copper in concentrate per month. Gold production thus stood at approximately 2,800 ounces per month. Both these rates were still far below the expected levels, however.
By now, production levels are closing up to initial forecasts, which is almost double of production in last October. With high copper and gold prices at the world market, the relatively small production at Guelb Moghrein nevertheless is expected to pay off investments rapidly.
Mauritania is already heavily dependent on mining for its national economy. One of the world's largest iron mines is located in the northern Mauritanian desert town of Zouîrât, which again is connected by rail to the port town of Nouadhibou. Further, gypsum deposits are mined while known titanium ores remain unexploited. Also offshore oil production has just started.
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