Guinea: Mining Fight Shows Pressure on Multinationals
“Alpha Condé, the new president of Guinea, pledges to do what none of his predecessors have: Harness vast iron-ore reserves contained in the Simandou mountain chain to give the West African country one of the continent’s most prosperous economies.
To succeed where others have failed, Mr. Condé is revisiting an existing Simandou mining contract with Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, as well as other pacts signed by his predecessors. Foreign investors, no matter how big, will have to follow rules or leave Guinea, he says.
In Guinea, the Simandou contracts are just some of several that are under review in disputes with companies from Russia, China and the U.S. And the outcome of the Simandou dispute is likely to rattle at least one powerful international investor: either Rio Tinto or rival Vale SA of Brazil. Aluminum Corporation of China also has a dog in the fight.”
- Rio Tinto has teamed up with Chinalco to develop its part of the Simandou deposit (although it is still unclear which part it is exactly entitled to). The Chinese pay $1.35bln for infrastructure development, giving it the right to buy the ore from Rio Tinto.
- The Guinean government is keeping a close watch on the development plans, pressuring the companies to file plans and start investments, threatening to revoke licenses granted in earlier stages.
- The export of the Simandou iron ore is an interesting case of shared responsibility of corporates and government in infrastructure development. The shortest route to the sea would be a direct link through Liberia, but the infrastructure development to ship the ore through a Guinean port is one of the main benefits the Guinean government could achieve from the involvement of the foreign companies. The government will therefore have to find a balance in pressuring the companies to invest and investing itself to convince the companies to skip the Liberia-alternative.
- Vale smartly managed its transaction of BSG’s share of the Simandou asset by making 80% of the $2.5bln payment conditional on achievement of specific milestones, limiting the country risk it is exposed to. These types of conditional deals are likely to be the way to move forward in order to limit risk in many countries that are struggling to become more stable and attract investment.
©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com