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LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabon and Chinese mining enterprise CITIC Dameng, a unit of CITIC Resources Holdings, should mine over 26 million tonnes of manganese from their M'Bembele mine over the next 25 years, the two sides said.
The operation, whose start-up date has not yet been confirmed but was inked this week in Gabon, comes ahead of a planned separate listing for CITIC Dameng on the main board in Hong Kong.
Gabon, the number No. 2 producer of manganese, is seeking to boost its output of the metal, used in steel and aluminium alloys, as part of a drive to diversify its economy away from dependence on oil and French firms.
Zhang Longzhu, vice president of CICMHZ, the local company created to run the M'Bembele operation in Gabon's Moyen-Ogooue province, said that reserves were estimated at "over 26 million tonnes".
Julien Nkoghe Bekale, Gabon's minister of mines, said 40 billion CFA would be invested in the project and production would start at around 800,000 tonnes per year and peak at just over 1 million tonnes for about 25 years.
Neither official gave a start-up date for the operation.
Gabon's manganese output slumped to around 2.2 million tonnes in 2009 due to falling demand after hitting 3.1 million tonneS.
Mining accounts for a small percentage of Gabon's economy, but President Ali Bongo is seeking to boost the sector as his country's oil reserves start winding down.
Bongo is also actively seeking investment from firms outside France, the former colonial power that has long-enjoyed a strong influence in the Central African nation.
Gabon is due to buy a greater stake in Comilog, another manganese operation Gabon has with Eramet, Eramet said earlier this month.