Algeria is pursuing plans to produce 40-50 million tonnes of iron ore per year from a giant mine in the Western part of the North African nation, an Algerian industry official was reported on Tuesday as saying.

Gâra Djebilet mine in the western Tindouf province was commissioned in mid-2022 with planned initial production of between 2 to 3 million tonnes per year.

Officials this month revealed plans to build a 1,000-km rail line to link the mine with Bechar province in Northwest Algeria.

“The completion of the rail project will allow us to fully exploit Gâra Djebilet mine and achieve the targeted production of 40-50 million tonnes per year,” said Ahmed bin Abbas, Director General of the government-owned Algerian National Steel Company.

Abbas, quoted by the Algerian Arabic language daily Elkhabar, said the project would turn the OPEC member into one of the largest steel producers in the Middle East and allow it to boost exports.

He said the Company would sign an agreement with China before the end of 2023 to supply it with 500,000 tonnes of iron ore per year.

Gâra Djebilet is one of the world’s largest iron ore reserves, with estimated 3.5 billion tonnes, of which around 1.7 billion tonnes are exploitable. 

(Reporting by Nadim Kawach; Editing by Anoop Menon)