Can ‘superblimp’ unlock hidden riches of Africa? – CNN

8 months ago Comments Off on Can ‘superblimp’ unlock hidden riches of Africa? – CNN

Industry in need of new ideas

Given the downturn in commodities prices across the continent, and the inaccessibility of key sites — Sundance’s Mbalam-Nabeba project straddles the border of Cameroon and the Republic of Congo and required the building of a 510-kilometer rail line – the Airship could offer relief and opportunity to the beleaguered industry.

Robert S. Stewart, head of mining firm Interop AG, has researched the ship’s potential impact on projects across the continent, including the largest — Rio Tinto’s putative $20 billion iron ore plant in Simandou, Guinea.

“The airship could save the project $7 billion by staging it in a completely different way,” he says.

Airships could facilitate mining projects such as the Simandou iron ore plant in Guinea. Airships could facilitate mining projects such as the Simandou iron ore plant in Guinea.

Stewart believes the new design could bypass many of the most expensive and time-consuming aspects of mining.

“When you build a project in a remote area, you always have to start with a road, a railway line, and a power line before you build the smelter,” says Stewart. “With an airship you can fly straight in, without even an airport, just an area the size of two or three football fields.”

Read: Order your own airship

The vast majority of “low-hanging fruit” have been extracted already, according to Stewart, who estimates that over 90% of existing mineral resources in Africa – including vast gold and diamond deposits – are in “hidden, remote locations.”

He believes the industry must innovate and adapt to these new circumstances.

The shape of the future

Mining consultant Stan Sudol, publisher of respected industry website, agrees the ship could be a game changer, that will allow commodities to be fast-tracked to market.

Comparison graphic from Hybrid EnterpriseComparison graphic from Hybrid Enterprise

“They can be used to set up initial mine site development for less cost in a faster time-frame as no local airstrip is necessary to start cargo delivery,” says Sudol.

Read: What can you build with $50 billion

Hybrid Enterprises hope the ships — which are currently undergoing FAA certification — will be in operation by 2018. The cost of each unit is expected to run to tens of millions of dollars, although the price has not yet been disclosed.

Neither is this the only airship preparing for launch. The Airlander 10 from Hybrid Air Vehicles, and the Stratobus from Thales, are just two of the new designs preparing to join the blimp revival.

Can ‘superblimp’ unlock hidden riches of Africa? – CNN