Australian iro ore giant Fortescue Metals Group, through its incorporated joint venture company Ivindo Iron, has signed the Mining Convention for the Belinga Iron Ore Project in Gabon with the Gabonese Republic. This will see first mining planned for the second half of calendar 2023 and open growth opportunities for Fortescue Metals and Fortescue Future Industries throughout Africa.The Mining Convention governs all the legal, fiscal and regulatory regimes for the 4,500 square kilometres which comprises the Belinga Project, including early development for production of up to two million tonnes per annum, while studies advance potential designs of a large scale development.The capital estimate for the early stage mining development is approximately USD 200 million (100% basis) with investment over calendar 2023-24. The development involves conventional open pit mining methods to produce the ore which will be trucked and railed over existing roads and rail infrastructure, and will be shipped from the Owendo Mineral Port, near Libreville.Ivindo Iron is the operating entity for the Belinga Project. It is held 90 per cent by the Belinga Joint Venture Company, established by Fortescue (80 per cent interest) and its joint venture partner, the Africa Transformation and Industrialization Fund (20 per cent). In accordance with the Gabon Mining Code, the Gabon Government will have a free carry interest of 10 per cent in Ivindo Iron.The Belinga Iron Ore Project is located in the northeast of Gabon. The deposit was initially discovered in 1955, and subsequent exploration in the 1970s identified high iron and low contaminant mineralisation. The deposit sits in Archean aged rocks of the Congo Craton. The lithology and structure are typical of other greenstone belts that commonly host banded iron formations and itabirites found in other parts of West Africa such as the Simandou project. The Belinga geology and iron ore potential is similar in scale as Simandou in its early stages of exploration, with its multi-billion tonne potential and high grades. The Belinga Iron Ore Project has been progressively assessed by Fortescue since 2018.