Martial law hobbles Guinea bauxite sectoradmin
Martial law in Guinea has forced the world’s biggest bauxite exporter, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG), to halt mining activities and deliveries of ore to the Kamsar port, company officials said on Wednesday.
Guinea, which holds a third of the world’s bauxite reserves, has been gripped by a wave of violent protests against President Lansana Conte’s 23-year rule in which at least 110 people have been killed since early January.
Conte, a veteran general who seized power in a 1984 coup, declared martial law late on Monday in a bid to halt three days of violent protests and a national strike, the second this year, that began the same day.
“Work has been stopped at Sangaredi (mine),” said a CBG official. “There is a minimum service at Kamsar but the trains (to the port from the mine) have halted.”
An industry source at Sangaredi, north of Conakry, said at least four people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces there in the recent days of unrest leading up to the declaration of martial law.
But the mining town was calm on Wednesday.
“The army has taken over the town … everything is halted,” the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Martial law hands the military powers to arrest anyone threatening state security, to censor the media and all private communications, and to enforce a strict curfew for all but six hours each day.
After the curfew was relaxed slightly late on Tuesday, CBG officials speculated that it could be ended in the coming days in mining regions to allow work to continue in the crucial sector. It was not immediately possible to confirm this.
Industry sources said an operation to evacuate by plane family members of expatriates working for CBG in Kamsar started on Wednesday and a similar operation was planned for Sangaredi.
Most expatriate staff working in Conakry for major mining companies Rio Tinto Ltd. and BHP Billiton Ltd. were evacuated in the last few days.
U.S. aluminium giant Alcoa and Canada’s Alcan control the Halco joint venture that owns 51 percent of the CBG. The remaining stake is held by the government.
Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery declined to give details of any evacuation plan for CBG expatriate staff in Guinea. “Whatever we do will be done with an eye to protecting our people,” he said.
Lowery had confirmed late on Tuesday that CGB’s Guinea operations had been halted following the martial law decree.
The CBG normally produces just over 14 million tonnes of wet bauxite a year and exports some 13 million tonnes of dried bauxite, making it the world’s top exporter.
CBG officials had previously told Reuters the company had lost $1 million a day due to disruptions caused by an 18-day general strike last month.
A spokesman for Russia’s RUSAL said on Monday that its output had also been affected by the strike, before the declaration of martial law. It was not immediately possible to contact RUSAL officials on Wednesday.