Guinea says to stop bauxite exports, develop alumina

Guinea says to stop bauxite exports, develop alumina

Top bauxite producer Guinea said it wants to stop exports of the key raw material for aluminium and focus on developing its own alumina sector, Mining Minister Dr.Ousmane Sylla told Reuters on Monday.

“I want to stop exports of bauxite. We have done this for 50 years,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a Metal Bulletin conference in Moscow.

“We will put pressure on our old partners and show we can have new partners.”

Guinea has about a third of the world’s bauxite and produced some 19.2 million tonnes in 2005. World bauxite production was 135.5 million tonnes in 2005.

But most of the West African country’s 10 million population live on less than a $1 a day. Sylla said he was introducing a new policy to develop the nation’s alumina industry which was more profitable than exporting bauxite.

It takes 4 tonnes of bauxite to make 2 tonnes of alumina, which in turn produces one tonne of aluminum metal used in cars, construction and packaging.

Boke is Guinea’s largest mine producing some 14 million tonnes per year of which 12 million tonnes is exported. The Kindia and Fria Kimbo mines make up the balance.

Sylla said there were three alumina refineries being planned. The first owned by Canadian-listed Global Alumina should come on stream in 2009 and produce 1.5 million tonnes a year which could be expanded to 3-4 million tonnes per year.

President Lansana Conte signed off a legal convention in August allowing U.S. and Canadian aluminium giants Alcoa and Alcan to build a $1 billion plant to refine bauxite into alumina.

Sylla said the refinery was some five years off and he was unhappy it had taken the North American firms, with a 35-year long trading link, such a long time to invest in a refinery.

The world’s third largest aluminium producer, Russia’s RUSAL, also plans to build a 2 million tpy plant.

Tom-Einar Rysst Jensen, head of global alumina and smelter growth at Norway’s Hydro Aluminium , said: “Guinea is high up on our agenda and we hope that soon we will be a significant player in Guinea.”

“We need to look hard and fast for alumina projects… It makes sense to look at Guinea.”

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