FERRUM Crescent has put on hold bankable studies of its Moonlight iron ore project until Transnet Freight Rail completes a feasibility study of its rail project in Waterberg, Limpopo, the iron ore explorer's chief operating officer, Vernon Harvey, said yesterday.

Moonlight is near Lephalale, and Ferrum has prospects of mining about 6-million tons of iron ore pellets a year.

Mr Harvey said the mine was waiting for the outcome of talks about logistics with Transnet before undertaking a bankable feasibility study.

In the June-quarter report, released yesterday, Moonlight was said to hold 83-million tons of indicated resources. "Given that the size of the resources is sufficient for mining in excess of 20 years, our focus will be on finding definitive answers to logistical questions rather than on continued exploration," he said.

The Department of Mineral Resources recently issued Ferrum new order rights for Moonlight, at which the company has started drilling operations. It has also conducted an aero magnetic survey over the Julieta and Gouda Fontein farms.

The rights also meant that Ferrum was able to complete a black economic empowerment (BEE) deal with Mkhombi Amamato, which holds a 15,6% stake in the Moonlight project.

Mike Asefovitz, a spokesman for Transnet Freight Rail, said studies were "progressing right on schedule", and that results were expected to be released towards the end of the year.

Transnet is planning a two-phase rail expansion programme in Waterberg that includes a line from Lephalale to Ermelo, as well as the building of passing loops and upgrading the line to handle loads of 26 tons per axle.

The investment will increase coal capacity on the line from 4-million tons to 23-million tons. About 30% of this new capacity will be used to move coal to Eskom's coal-fired power stations at Medupi and Matimba.

In phase two, Transnet will spend about R31bn on a new 450km line. Mr Asefovitz said the size of allocations for mining in the region will be determined after the outcome of the studies.

maotom@bdfm.co.za