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Mining under attack in Guinea

Popular discontent against the government of the West African country of Guinea is now turning towards mining companies.

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People believe that the mining firms should be providing the social services that the government is failing to supply. Strikes have been held and mining railways blocked, including the line between the Sangarédi bauxite mine and the refinery at Kamsar. Société Minière de Boké (SMB), which is owned by Chinese investors, has been badly affected by strike action, called after a union leader was arrested. The company estimates that it has lost up to 1.2 Mt of bauxite production.

 

Guinea had stabilised somewhat since President Alpha Condé came to power in 2010. Yet Condé is gradually tightening his grip on power, suggesting that he may remove the constitutional two-term presidential limit, in order to stay in power.

 

The results of April’s local elections had not been released a month after they were held. In addition, little progress has been made on increasing living standards in what is one of the most important mining countries in Africa.

Seán Smith, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said: “Among the numerous protests are renewed signs that many people also blame mining companies for the state’s failure to contribute to their wellbeing. Anti-government sentiment is set to further escalate in the run-up to the legislative election in September, and mining firms are likely to experience even more disruption.”

 

Demand for rail and port capacity in the country is increasing rapidly, as bauxite production increased from 26 Mt in 2016 to 50 Mt last year. At the end of April, the government approved the development plan for another new bauxite project in the northwest of the country. Société des Bauxites de Guinee (SBG), which is owned by MetalCorp Group of the Netherlands, is to invest US$1.4B in bauxite mining and alumina refining. Production of 8 Mtpa is due to begin in 2022.

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