* Integrated project involves big global trader Trafigura
* Plan to tap mines in north and south, includes smelters
By Pascal Fletcher
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Angola aims to start up iron ore production in the next two to three years through a state company partnership with private operators including leading international trading house Trafigura, an Angolan industry official said on Wednesday.
Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, president of state-owned Ferrangol-EP, told Reuters the integrated iron ore/manganese and steel project would extract ore from two mining areas - Kassala-Kitungo in Kwanza Norte province and Cassinga in southern Huila province.
“We foresee that possibly towards the end of 2014, or in 2015, we can start up production at a still low level and then pass on to other output phases,” Azevedo told Reuters on the sidelines of an iron ore conference organised by Metal Bulletin in Johannesburg.
The project, undergoing a feasibility study, aimed at initial production of iron ore concentrate but included plans for smelters. “Our intention is to get to the production of steel,” Azevedo said.
He saw initial iron ore production of three million to four million tonnes a year ramping up to levels of 20 million and 30 million tonnes a year. “The resources are enormous,” he said, without giving an estimate for Angola’s iron ore reserves.
Angola, which was devastated by a 27-year civil war that ended a decade ago, is Africa’s second largest oil producer after Nigeria.
Oil revenues represent more than 95 percent of the country’s export income and around 45 percent of gross domestic product, but President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ government is looking to diversify the economy and develop other areas of industry.
Azevedo said the private DT Group, a Singapore registered joint venture that includes Trafigura, had a 60 percent stake in the Angolan integrated iron ore and steel project, while a private Angolan group, Genios, held 10 percent. State-owned Ferrangol held the remaining 30 percent.
The Cassinga mine was already linked to an Atlantic Coast port by the existing Mocamedes railway, and both rail line and port were being rehabilitated for the project, he added.
Cassinga was operated under Portuguese colonial rule by the Lobito Mining Company before Angola gained its independence in 1975. “In the 1960s, it was already exporting nearly six million tonnes a year of iron ore concentrate,” Azevedo said.
“So, the project has good prospects,” he added , but he declined to give an overall figure for the size of the planned total project investment, saying only it was considerable. (Editing by James Jukwey)