Can ‘superblimp’ unlock hidden riches of Africa? (CNN.com – February 24, 2016)

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

(CNN)Best known for floating aimlessly above sports stadiums, and for their slightly comic, bloated shape, blimps are an unlikely subject for a 21st century revival.

But after 20 years of development, Lockheed Martin and Hybrid Enterprises are poised to unleash a revolutionary new design that could unlock resources worth billions of dollars across the African continent.

The Hybrid Airship is a helium-powered craft that can cover thousands of kilometers in a single journey, with a top speed of 60 knots. The craft can take off and land without a runway, and the cavernous interior can carry loads of 20 tons.

At the recent African Mining Indaba event in Cape Town, the Airship was presented as a vital asset for mining companies across the continent. Using the tag “No roads, No problem,” promoters emphasized its ability to access remote but lucrative mineral sources.

“It will land on water, sand, a field, even ice,” said a Hybrid Enterprises spokesperson.

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.

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