London - London Mining, whose only operating mine is in Sierra Leone, reported a first-half loss due to a drop in iron ore prices and said the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus across West Africa could hurt production in the second half.

The company's shares fell as much as 18 percent to 32.75 pence in early trading, making them the biggest percentage loser on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday.

London Mining, which operates the Marampa mine in Sierra Leone, said the Ebola outbreak had disrupted its supply chain and delayed a plant optimisation programme at the mine.

The company cut the top end of its full-year iron ore production forecast to 5.1 million wet metric tonnes from 5.4 million, while maintaining the lower end at 4.9 million tonnes.

London Mining said it had deferred more than $20 million (R215 million) of non-essential capital expenditure planned for the year until market conditions improve or it completes the search for a strategic partner that it began earlier this year.

The company posted a loss of $10.8 million before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the six months ended June 30, compared with a profit of $24.0 million a year earlier.

Revenue fell 22 percent to $110.6 million.

Production rose 24 percent to 2.1 million wet metric tonnes.

Iron ore prices fell to a 21-month low of $89 per tonne in mid-June as supply continued to outpace demand in China.

Benchmark 62-percent grade iron ore for immediate shipment to China fell 31 percent in the first six months of the year to average $111.5 per tonne. - Reuters