Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma

Sierra Leone hopes to become Africa's biggest exporter of iron ore with the opening of a new mine in the central Tonkolili district.  

Geologists say the new mine holds more then five billion tons of iron ore. Before mining can begin at Tonkolili, geologists are logging magnetite and hematite core samples for testing to determine the richness of iron levels in the deposit.

The site still needs a road and railway link to transport the ore to Sierra Leone's deep-water port at Tagrin Point.

African Minerals chairman Frank Timis says this mine will not only be Africa's biggest, but will also be one of its lowest-cost producers.

"This project, over the next three to four years and two or three stages of development will become the third largest iron ore deposit exporter," said Frank Timis.

Sierra Leone is still emerging from the ravages of a long civil war.  Because of this, the country's President Ernest Bai Koroma says the mine will be an important source of revenue in Sierra Leone's recovery.

"That will bring a turn-around in this country, and that will give people hope," said Preident Koroma.

The project will employ about 10,000 people over the next few years. It plans to start exporting more than five million tons of ore by November with hopes to produce 40 million tons annually by 2013.