Guinea: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Guinea is a country located in Western Africa with a North Atlantic coastline. It has a total area of 245,857 km2, 140 km2 of which is water and is populated by 13.78 million as of 2018. The climate of Guinea is hot and humid in general, with a monsoon season from June to November.

As a result, of this tropical climate, Guinea is awash with mineral, agricultural and hydropower resources. The country is home to the largest bauxite reserves in the world and was the 13th leading producer of rough diamond by volume in 2012. The recent discovery of Simandou; the largest known untapped iron ore reserve, has initiated a national project to also develop a substantial mining industry for this mineral.

Unfortunately, political instability, widespread corruption, and poor infrastructure have prevented Guinea from taking full advantage of its abundant natural assets. Guinea’s weak economy, marked by debt and inflation, has kept investors away from the country. Economic development was further hindered by the devastation of the Ebola epidemic which hit in 2014.

As of 2017, the GDP of Guinea was US$10.49 billion with a growth rate of 6.4% from the previous year. The following sections will discuss in detail Guinea’s significant mineral resources, mining industry, and its future prospects.

Overview of Resources

Guinea has rich bauxite reserves – 27% of the World’s total supply - and considerable iron ore, diamond and gold reserves. Other minable resources include uranium, cement, and salt. Guinea also has significant water-based resources, with strong hydropower and fishing industries. Traditionally, Guinea has poor oil and natural gas resources, however, the government introduced a new petroleum code in 2014 to encourage the exploration of offshore oil drilling.

Mineral reserves of Guinea as of January 2001.

No Mineral Reserves Recovery Extraction, year 2000
Unit of measure Total Known
1 Diamonds mln carats 40 1.2 0.2 carats/m3 0.45
2 Gold tons 190 100 primary deposits- 2.26 g/t; placers- 1.5 g/m3 16
3 Bauxites mln tons 20900 7400 52% 0.550
4 Iron ores mln tons 4460 2100 57% -
5 Chrome ores mln tons 1.5 - 22% -
6 Titanium-zirconium (ores summed) thousand tons 78.9 52.5 - no info
7 Carbonate resources mln tons 5.1 4.2 - no info
8 Fireclays mln tons 69.4 - - no info
9 Construction sand mln m3 6.1 0.5 - no info
10 Shingle and gravel thousand m3 - 230 - no info

Guinea is a major exporter of diamonds, bauxite, alumina, and gold, with major export partners including China, Ghana, India, Spain, and The United Arab Emirates as of 2017. Unfortunately, the country is a victim of poor mining practices which have resulted in considerable environmental damage.

Metals

Guinea is endowed with rich bauxite and alumina reserves. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG), Alumina Company of Guinea (ACG), and Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB) are the three major bauxite producers operating in Guinea. The 406 km2 Koba bauxite project and the 130 km2 Koumbia bauxite project located on the Boke bauxite belt, along with Southwestern 1,832 km2 Mamou-Dalaba bauxite project, are well-established contributors to the country’s bauxite production.  

Image Credits: pavalena/shutterstock.com

However, these companies have only scraped the outer surface of Guinea’s bauxite reserves and recent years has seen a surge funding to develop new projects in order to unlock the true potential of this industry. Notably, A joint venture between Global Alumina Corp., Dubai Aluminium Company Ltd., and Mubadala Development Company PJSC are in the process of the construction of a bauxite mine near Sangaredi in the Boke town with an estimated capacity of 12 million metric tons per year.  Furthermore, in April 2018 it was announced that plans had been approved for the company Societe des Bauxites de Guinee to develop a new bauxite mine and aluminum refinery as a result of sufficient evidence that the area contains more than 300 million tonnes of bauxite reserves.  

Gold is another of Guinea’s mining asset available in abundance. The largest mine is found in the remote district of Siguiri, owned by AngloGold Ashanti – a South African founded company currently holding the title as the World’s third greatest gold producer. In 2017, the Siguiri mine extracted 9,185 kg of gold, contributing to the country’s 15422kg total annual production.

The country also has rich iron ore reserves. The key iron mines in the country are Simandou South (Zogota) and Simandou North concessions. The estimated output of Zogota is 2 Mt/year. There are plans to increase the production capacity at Simandou to 15 Mt/year by 2014. By 2020, the total iron ore production capacity is expected to touch 50 Mt/year. Recent exploration of Simandou South has unearthed the location of the world’s largest unexploited iron ore reserve. As a result a joint venture between the Guinean government, Rio Tinto, Chinalco, and the International Finance Corporation is underway to expand the mine’s annual production capacity to 100 million tonnes, promising the potential to double the GDP of Guinea.

Industrial Minerals

The diamond reserves of Guinea are also worth noting with a proven repository of up to 40 million as of 2016, the majority of which are located in Banankoro-Sefadou area. However, unlike the booming industries of bauxite, gold and iron ore, Guinea’s diamond production has not experienced such success in recent years. From 2008 to 2012 the annual diamond production plummeted from 3,098,490 to 266,800 carats. Moreover, in 2017 Stellar Diamond plc sold its ownership of all Guinea assets including the Bomboko alluvial diamond deposit and the Mandala Mine – former significant diamond producers for Guinea – in favor of a more promising development in Sierra Leone.

Investment

Guinea’s increased mining activities and the hint of a more stable democracy point towards significant future economic development for the country. The aforementioned projects regarding bauxite, gold and iron ore production combined with plans to improve the infrastructure, are likely to accelerate foreign direct investment in the mineral sector and promote interest in mineral prospecting.

The government department in charge of the administration of the mining industry in Guinea is The Ministère des Mines et de la Géologie. Guinea’s Mining Code was last amended in 1998, according to which the Government of Guinea is entitled to a “founder’s share” of 15% of the operating company’s capital in all precious stone mining activities including diamond and gold, despite the absence of any government funding for these activities. This founder’s share is not applicable to bauxite, iron ore, or solid hydrocarbons mining.

In September 2011, the government of Guinea put forth a new amendment to the mining code that pledged to safeguard the environment and fight corruption. However, this was greeted by such strong criticism by the country’s mining companies that the application of the tax and customs rules was promptly suspended. This led to a period of widespread legal uncertainty in the mining industry whilst the authorities endeavored to address certain concerns expressed by the companies before a final bill was implemented in 2013. This code includes a new quota system dictating a certain percentage of employees who must be of Guinean nationality.

Guinea has historically been an active member of international organizations such as World Bank, United Nations, IM F, and World Trade Organization. The country’s international relations have now been extended to a partnership with China as of the announcement in 2017 that China will provide $20 billion of funding over the next 20 years in exchange for the guaranteed concession of the plentiful bauxite reserves. The minister stated that the funding will be concentrated on the long overdue development of Guinea’s infrastructure with the construction of an electric transmission line identified as a priority.

Despite this momentous partnership, and the continuing growth of Guinea’s mining assets, experts nonetheless feel that the 15% free share to the government and the never-ending political instability will continue to provide a barrier to foreign mining companies looking to invest in the country.

Sources and Further Reading

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

This article was updated on the 8th November, 2018.

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