28 Nov Interview with Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy, Managing Director and CEO of National Industrial And Mining Company Mauritania
Business Focus: Mauritania is Africa’s second largest iron ore producer, with 13.35 million tons of ore exported in 2022. The mining sector represented 24% of the country’s GDP and 60% of exports in 2022. With significant proven reserves of iron, gold and copper, there is still much exploration to be done to unlock new reserves. To begin, tell us about the role and contribution of the mining sector to the Mauritanian economy? Can you also give us the latest key figures to assess the importance of the sector?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: The mining sector stands as a cornerstone of the Mauritanian economy, with the National Industrial and Mining Company (SNIM) alone contributing 22% to the state budget, 32% to the export volume, and 9% to GDP in 2022. This underlines the sector’s paramount significance.
Despite the 60 years of operation in the iron ore sector, our subsoil remains largely unexplored, holding immense and diverse mining potential. Proven reserves for iron ore, the primary focus for six decades, are estimated at over 15 billion tons, primarily consisting of poor but enrichable magnetic iron ores.
Alongside minerals like gold, copper, and gypsum currently exploited by various operators, including Société Arabe des Industries Métallurgiques (SAMIA) – a SNIM subsidiary specializing in gypsum and plaster—we are also uncovering promising signs of additional minerals. Exploration campaigns conducted by numerous national and international companies are underway to unveil the full spectrum of our mineral wealth.
BF: What are the main existing deposits in Mauritania, and what are the different market players doing in terms of exploration and diversification at the moment? How would you assess the country’s potential in terms of mines?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: The Mauritanian subsoil, rich with untapped potential, hosts over a thousand identified indexes, showcasing significant mining opportunities. Presently, the primary mining activities in the country are concentrated on iron ore, led by SNIM, gold under Kinross Tasiast, and copper through MCM (Mauritanian Copper Mines). Furthermore, various exploration initiatives are underway, targeting minerals like chrome, phosphate, titanium, uranium, rare earth, among others.
At SNIM, our focus extends beyond increasing capacities; we are actively working to diversify our mining portfolio. A pivotal step in this direction involves the revival of our exploration permits for copper, gold, and associated minerals in the wilaya of Inchiri, situated in the northern part of the country. This strategic move aligns with our commitment to expanding the scope of our mining activities.
BF: SNIM recently unveiled a new strategic plan aimed at increasing production and diversifying into new minerals and sectors. Can you give our readers an overview of the company, its main assets and current mission, production, primary processing, routing and transportation, with supporting figures if possible?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: SNIM stands as a cornerstone of Mauritania’s mining, engaging in comprehensive operations encompassing research, exploitation, processing, transportation, and export of iron ore. Nestled in the Tiris Zemour region, SNIM’s deposits contribute significantly to the nation’s economic landscape.
Managing the entire operational spectrum, SNIM’s responsibilities span geological research, mining, maintenance, water and electricity production, iron ore transport, and the operation of the Nouadhibou loading port. A testament to its commitment to excellence, SNIM boasts ISO 9001 certification since 2005, ISO 14001 since 2011, and the “CSR Committed – confirmed level” label on the Afnor certification evaluation system, aligned with the ISO 26000 standard since 2021.
With a rich legacy of 60 years in the mining sector, SNIM has adeptly navigated various operational and market challenges. Pioneering transformation, SNIM inaugurated its first magnetite enrichment plant in 1984, marking a shift towards primary transformation. Presently, almost half of SNIM’s production originates from concentrate production plants.
In pursuit of ambitious targets, SNIM aims for exports of 14 million tons in 2023, following a successful sales record of 13.35 million tons in 2022. The F’derick project, generating approximately 2 million tons of hematite annually, and the Tizerghaf project, with a planned annual production of 6 million tons of concentrate, signify SNIM’s commitment to capacity expansion in the short to medium term.
Furthering collaborative efforts, SNIM has partnered with Glencore and SABIC for iron ore beneficiation and pellet manufacturing projects, each with an annual capacity of 11.3 and 10 million tons, respectively. The robust infrastructure, including the railway and port, is geared to support this surge in production capacity.
Exploring innovative energy solutions, SNIM is delving into the potential of emerging technologies like green gas or hydrogen to enhance the added value of iron ore. The strategic shift towards pellet and green steel production is evident in memoranda of understanding signed with industry giants Emirates Steel and ArcelorMittal, reflecting SNIM’s forward-looking development strategy.
BF: Part of the company’s strategic plan is to diversify and expand into adjacent areas. What are the key steps taken recently, and what are the new projects of SNIM?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: SNIM unfolds its forward-looking vision through a strategic business plan (PSE), comprising diverse facets like human resources, geological research, commercial strategies, and a dedicated focus on sustainable development.
An integral aspect of SNIM’s strategic evolution is mining diversification. In 2021, SNIM assumed control of a research permit for gold, copper, and associated metals in the Inchiri region, situated in northern Mauritania. Encouragingly, the outcomes of the 2022 research campaign within this permit underscore the potential for substantial developments in this domain. This initiative underscores SNIM’s commitment to embracing new mining horizons and contributing to the broadening landscape of Mauritania’s mineral resources.
BF: SNIM also contributes greatly to local development, notably by investing €14.4 million last year in social and community projects and by providing work to 157 local companies in 2022. How important is support for citizens and local businesses in the company’s current strategy?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: Since its inception, SNIM has consistently upheld a commitment to sustainability, economic profitability, and social responsibility. Beyond its pivotal role in the national economy as a leading employer, contributor to GDP, budget revenues, and exports, SNIM actively fosters local development in the regions it operates. This commitment materializes through substantial investments in social and community projects, creating a positive impact on the areas where it is present.
SNIM’s approach extends to collaborations with local businesses, fostering a thriving ecosystem. In 2022 alone, the value of orders placed with these local enterprises reached an impressive $55 million, showcasing the mutually beneficial relationships forged within the community.
Moreover, the SNIM Foundation, established in 2007, stands as a testament to SNIM’s dedication to social betterment. The foundation strategically engages in areas like education, health, water and energy access, and overall local development. Its impactful investments have significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of life along the railway corridor, particularly in Nouadhibou-Zouerate and Bir Mougrein, showcasing SNIM’s enduring commitment to holistic development.
BF: SNIM has a long history of partnering with foreign companies to expand its operations, including joint ventures with Swiss company Glencore and Saudi company SABIC. The company has also signed MOUs with various global players including Emirates Steel and ArcelorMittal. What are the company’s biggest current joint venture projects, what do these partnerships bring you in concrete terms, and what type of future partnerships is the company considering to broaden its scope of action?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: Analyzing the composition of our capital structure unveils SNIM as a highly inclusive company. Beyond the substantial 78.35% ownership by the Mauritanian state, we proudly incorporate contributions from foreign and private sector entities, fostering a diverse and collaborative environment.
In the realm of partnership initiatives, SNIM spearheads two major joint venture projects: Tekamul (SNIM-SABIC) and El Aouj (SNIM-Glencore). These ventures represent strategic collaborations where stakeholders synergize their resources, leveraging complementary expertise to maximize project success. El Aouj, currently progressing through the funds mobilization phase following the FEED stage, and Tekamul, presently advancing in the FEED phase post the completion of the feasibility study, exemplify SNIM’s commitment to dynamic and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Endowed with substantial resources and assets, SNIM stands poised to forge new alliances. Whether in the realms of iron ore extraction, beneficiation, transformation, or venturing into renewable energies and green steel production, SNIM possesses the capacity and willingness to embark on innovative partnerships that contribute to the sustainable development of the industry.
BF: SNIM’s new strategic plan also plans to enter the green hydrogen market to complement its forays into renewable energies. What progress has SNIM made in reducing emissions from its mining operations, notably with the use of solar and wind energy? How does SNIM intend to take advantage of the development of green hydrogen in Mauritania in the future – what new projects do you plan to develop using green hydrogen and how are you preparing for them?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: SNIM stands at the forefront of renewable energy production, pioneering Mauritania’s sustainable energy landscape by inaugurating the nation’s inaugural wind power plant in 2012, located in Nouadhibou. Our current energy portfolio boasts a wind power facility in Nouadhibou and a solar power plant in Zouerate, with ongoing installations for an additional solar power plant in Zouerate.
At SNIM, the imperative to decarbonize our operations takes precedence in our strategic blueprint. Deliberations are in progress to formulate a comprehensive decarbonization plan aligned with national commitments, strategically addressing greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Anticipating the transformative potential of emerging energy solutions, SNIM has embraced forward-thinking initiatives. The signing of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for pellet and green steel production lays the groundwork for our future endeavors, positioning us to seamlessly transition into the production of green gas and hydrogen. This strategic foresight aligns with our commitment to fostering sustainable practices and leveraging innovative energy solutions.
BF: Education and training are a priority for the government. As the country’s second largest employer in Mauritania with around 7,000 employees, how are you working to further develop the level of skill and technicality of your workforce, with a view to your future projects?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: Human resource development is a pivotal focus within SNIM’s overarching strategy, with a dedicated emphasis on professional training as the linchpin of our HR policy. SNIM has instituted an autonomous professional training system, designed for both the initiation and enhancement of our employees’ skills. Complementing this, we have forged strategic partnerships with public technical training institutions, facilitating the integration of well-qualified professionals and technicians into the job market. This collaborative effort contributes significantly to the broader national initiative in technical and professional training.
In the past year alone, our training centers conducted comprehensive sessions, benefiting 2,365 employees. These endeavors align seamlessly with the initiatives stemming from the Strategic Corporate Program (PSE), embodying our commitment to skill development among our workforce and fortifying a human-centric approach grounded in competency enhancement.
BF: Until now, American investments in Mauritania have focused mainly on hydrocarbons and mines. However, other sectors such as green energy, telecommunications and agriculture now look promising for US investors. By the end of 2022, the American government has committed to investing $55 billion in the African continent. How important have foreign investors been in the development of the local mining sector?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: In my view, Mauritania boasts one of the most enticing investment codes and mining regulations in the sub-region. The burgeoning number of entities engaged in prospecting various minerals, as well as oil and gas resources, stands testament to the allure of investing in our nation. The stability of Mauritania, coupled with its strategic geographical positioning, further enhances its appeal as a prime investment destination.
Within the mining sector, the considerable influence, expertise, and openness to partnerships demonstrated by SNIM, alongside its robust infrastructure comprising railways and ports, create a favorable environment for collaborative ventures in this domain.
While current American investments in Mauritania are somewhat limited to specific sectors, it’s noteworthy that SNIM maintains enduring relationships and trust with American manufacturers specializing in mining and railway equipment. This enduring rapport ensures a consistent and reliable supply chain for our operational needs.
BF: Do you have a final message for USA Today’s readers?
Mohamed Vall Mohamed Telmidy: Mauritania’s strategic geographical position, coupled with its highly favorable investment codes, makes it an attractive prospect for American investors. The country boasts significant potential in various sectors, including mining, green hydrogen, hydrocarbons, fishing, and agriculture. This diverse range of opportunities positions Mauritania as an appealing destination for American investments. Additionally, the nation’s stability and commitment to security further enhance its attractiveness to potential investors, solidifying its standing in the sub-region as a promising hub for American investment.