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Guinea’s top minerals at risk after coup: Everything you need to know

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Guinea’s special forces on Sunday ousted the West African country’s president, raising the political and operational risk for its minerals, which include bauxite, diamonds, iron ore and gold.

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Mining accounts for about 35 percent of GDP in Guinea and while the West African country has large reserves, the development of many of its minerals has been hobbled by a lack of infrastructure, legal spats and alleged corruption.

Land and air borders were reopened on Monday, a government spokesperson said, but political risk on projects remains elevated.

Guinea also has mineral resources including cement, salt, graphite, limestone, manganese, nickel and uranium.

Below is a breakdown of the country’s main minerals by product.

Bauxite

Guinea is the world’s second-largest producer of bauxite, the main ore source of aluminum, much of which is destined to be processed in China.

Guinea accounts for about 22 percent of the world’s production, producing 82 million tons of bauxite in 2020, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Guinea is home to the world’s largest reserves of bauxite at 7.4 billion tons.

Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB) and Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG) are Guinea’s top two bauxite producers.

A train loaded with bauxite arrives at the bauxite factory of Guinea's largest mining firm, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG), at Kamsar, a town north of the capital Conakry, on October 23, 2008. (AFP)
A train loaded with bauxite arrives at the bauxite factory of Guinea's largest mining firm, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG), at Kamsar, a town north of the capital Conakry, on October 23, 2008. (AFP)

SMB is owned by a consortium including Singapore shipping company Winning International Group, Shandong Weiqiao - a subsidiary of the world’s top private sector aluminum producer China Hongqiao (1378.HK) - and Guinea’s UMS International.

CBG is 51 percent owned by consortium Halco Mining Inc and 49 percent owned by the Guinean government. Rio Tinto (RIO.L) and Alcoa Corp (AA.N) each hold 45 percent of Halco, while Dadco Investments holds the rest.

Based on USGS data, four tons of dried bauxite is required to produce two tons of alumina, which in turn produces a ton of aluminum.

Prices of Guinean bauxite for delivery to China are at a near 18-month high. read more

Guinea is China’s top source for bauxite that it uses to make aluminum, a big component in the making of automobiles and beverage cans.

The potential disruption to supply helped to extend a rally in aluminum prices to a new 10-year high.

Russia’s Rusal (RUAL.MM), the world’s third largest aluminum producer behind China’s Chinalco (601600.SS) and Hongqiao (1378.HK), operates three bauxite mines and one alumina refinery in Guinea.

Those three bauxite mines account for 42 percent of Rusal’s total bauxite capacity.

Rusal did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Monday.

Irone ore

Guinea is home to the world’s largest reserves of iron ore but years of legal wrangling and alleged corruption over the largest project Simandou, have left the minerals untapped.

Simandou holds more than 2 billion tons of high-grade ore, the largest known deposit of its kind. Iron ore is used to make steel.

China-backed consortium SMB-Winning plans to bring blocks 1 and 2 of Simandou into production by 2025.

Blocks 3 and 4 of Simandou are owned 45.05 percent by Rio Tinto, with Chinalco holding 39.95 percent and Guinea’s government holding 15 percent.

Gold

Guinea produced about 56.9 tons of gold in 2020, according to the World Gold Council and is the seventh-largest miner of the precious metal on the African continent.

Russia-focused producer Nordgold operates one gold mine in Guinea. Its Lefa mine, located 700 kilometer northeast of Conakry, accounted for 17 percent of Nordgold’s total production in 2020.

“To date, Nordgold remains unaffected by the current political situation in Guinea and our mine site continue to operate as normal,” Nordgold said in a statement on Monday.

AngloGold Ashanti (ANGJ.J) also said its Siguiri gold mine, where it produced 214,000 ounces in 2020, was unaffected.

Diamonds

Guinea has proven reserves of 30 to 40 million carats and 500 million carats of probable reserves, according to a government website.

The country exported 270,157 carats of diamonds in 2018 with a value of $20 million, based on the latest available data, according to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

The Guinean government has said it exported 136,072 carats of diamonds in 2020.

Read more:

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