Protesters block streets of Guinea bauxite towns

Protesters block streets of Guinea bauxite towns

Protesters blocked streets in two bauxite industry towns in Guinea on Monday, accusing authorities in the West African state of failing to use funds to improve roads and living conditions, witnesses said.

The demonstrators, many of them women, used tyres, blocks of wood and pieces of iron to erect barricades in Fria and Kamsar, where some of the country’s main bauxite and alumina facilities are located.

Guinea has about a third of the world’s bauxite and produced some 19.2 million tonnes in 2005. Bauxite is processed into alumina, which is in turn smelted into aluminium.

There was no immediate word on whether the protests had disrupted industrial production in the two towns.

A senior employee of the Alumina Company of Guinea, run by Russia’s Rouski Alumini (RUSAL), said he had been forced to walk to work.

“Access routes have been blocked by people unhappy about the state of the road to Fria,” the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. He added local officials were trying to clear the blocked streets.

Fria is located around 160 km (100 miles) north of the capital Conakry.

Despite its mineral riches, Guinea remains mired in poverty and angry citizens have staged a number of strikes and riots this year to protest against poor living conditions.

The instability has been compounded by the weak health of President Lansana Conte, an ageing, reclusive diabetic. Many fear that his sudden death or removal from power could throw the country into chaos.

In the bauxite port of Kamsar, 300 km (185 miles) northwest of Conakry, most of the protesters who blocked streets were women, witnesses said.

“They are going about town with red banners to show their anger. Everything is blocked,” one worker at the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea (CBG) plant in Kamsar told Reuters, asking not to be named. The protests had stopped some employees from going to work, he added.

CBG is operated by Alcoa World Alumina through its Halco venture with Canada’s Alcan and privately owned Dadco. Halco owns 51 percent of CBG and Guinea’s government holds the remaining stake.

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