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Liberia
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Liberia has been plagued by civil war for several years, and, as a result, foreign investment has all but ceased. Liberia’s main mineral products are gold and diamonds, although iron ore used to be a major product. Artisanal workings account for 98% of gold and diamonds produced. Liberia officially produced 155,000 carats of diamonds in 2001, with this number expected to be several orders of magnitude higher, due to extensive smuggling with bordering Sierre Leone, Guinea and Cote de Ivoire. There are thought to be between 20 and 30,000 artisanal miners in Liberia. Liberia is currently drafting a new Mineral Development Policy and Mining Code aimed at attracting foreign investment.

Liberia remains largely unexplored but it has been shown that the country possesses a wide variety of minerals besides its already well-known high potential for primary and alluvial gold and diamonds. Other minerals present include beryl, tin, columbite-tantalite, phosphates, zinc, copper, lead, rare earth minerals, nickel, molybdenum, beach sand (zircon, rutile, ilmenite, and monazite), bauxite, kyanite, chromite, uranium and silica sands. All are characteristically associated with Precambrian/Proterozoic rocks which underlie most of the country.

Diamond

The western part of Liberia is underlain by an Archaean age craton that is also present in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, making it highly prospective for hosting diamondiferous kimberlites. The areas along and between the Lofa river and the border with Sierra Leone have been mined by artisanals for several years, including during periods of civil unrest. Areas around Gbapa and Takpormah have been known as Liberia’s principal alluvial mining centers during the 1980’s. Diamond production estimates are extremely difficult, since traditionally much of the Liberian production results from smuggled stones originating from neighbouring Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea. Production in 2001 was estimated at 155,000 ct. On average, 25% of Liberia’s diamonds are of gem quality, 40% of near gem and 35% of industrial quality.

In June 2004 the UN Security Council ruled that peace in Liberia is still too fragile for sanctions on diamond and timber exports to be lifted. Liberia was also been suspended by the Kimberley Process because it would not allow monitoring of its diamond trade. The country has been a major outlet for conflict diamonds mined in Sierra Leone, which claims it has stamped out the conflict diamond trade.

The only really active foreign company in Liberia, Mano River Resources has to date located a total of six kimberlites on their Kpo Range diamond prospect. The kimberlites could be a possible source to the numerous alluvial showings in the area. Mano River has also reported the recovery of several kimberlitic indicator minerals on their Bea Mountain permit. South Africa's Trans Hex Group has entered into an agreement with Mano River over the evaluation of the Kpo kimberlite cluster.

During 2004, Diamond Fields International Ltd. entered into an option agreement with the Liberian-based Ducor Minerals Inc., under which it may earn an interest in Ducor's rights under two Mineral Exploration Agreements between Ducor and the Republic of Liberia. The Gbapolu and Grand Gedeh Properties cover a total area of 1813.72 km and are prospective for both diamonds and gold.

Gold

Artisanal mining for alluvial gold at a number of localities persisted during the war. Production has been estimated at around 1 t/year. Pre-war production was probably higher, judging from the numerous old alluvial diggings, which are now partially flooded.

Canadian junior Mano River Resources has a large presence in gold exploration and development in Liberia. The company has discovered a potential 1 Moz ore body on its King George-Larjor prospect in western Liberia. The King George Larjor (KGL) prospect has an indicated resource containing 4.1 Mt grading 4.6 g/t, equivalent to 610,000 oz gold. Mano River is also evaluating the Weaju property that lies within the Bea Mountain complex near the company's KGL prospect. At Weaju an inferred resource of 660,000t grading 10.9 g/t gold has been outlined. Mano River has embarked on a Bankable Feasibility Study over the KGL and Weaju properties. Freedom Gold has recently signed an agreement to carry out exploration in the Bukon Gedeh region in eastern Liberia.

Iron Ore

Iron ore mining and beneficiation was at one stage Liberia’s economic mainstay, contributing as much as 64% total exports which provided nearly 25% of the country’s GDP. However, the civil war that broke out in 1989 halted production from nearly all of the iron ore facilities. Liberia had five major iron ore deposits (Bomi Hills, Mano River, Mt Nimba South, Tokadeh and Bong mines). Of these most of the high grade iron ore (>65% Iron) has been mined. However, several large tonnage’s (for example at the Bong deposit – 300 Mt at 37% Fe) of medium to low grade iron ore ( 30 – 60% Fe) exist.

Recent studies by SRK (South Africa) have highlighted a high grade ore deposit in neighbouring Guinea. The Pierre Richaud deposit apparently contains 463 Mt at a grade of 65% iron and is located very near the border between the two countries. It is anticipated that minimal capital injection would be required due to existing infrastructure in Liberia.

The Mifergui iron and steel project on the border of Liberia and Guinea was mined extensively in the past and produced 13 million tons a year at 60% iron. Reserves are estimated to be four billion tons of low phosphorous content ore. Some of this deposit extends 30 km onto the Guinea side of the border. A feasibility study is underway to increase the exploitable iron ore tonnage to 25 million tons a year. The rail line from Mifergui to the coast of Liberia would have to be rebuilt. The Buchanan harbour would also have to be deepened. Other alternatives include a slurry pipeline through Sierra Leone.

Mineral Law & Legislation

The industry is regulated by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy in Liberia. The former grants licenses to investors willing to operate in the mining industry in Liberia. The licenses are of two types:

Major Players in the industry

  • Liberian Mining Company (LMC)
  • KIG Mining
  • Mano River Resources
  • Ducor Minerals Inc.

Key Figures

  • Gold production: 20 kilograms (2006)
  • Diamond Production: 155,000 carats (2001)
  • Hydraulic Cement Production: 40 thousand metric tons (2005)

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