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Guinea to review mining licenses

March 7, 2011

“Guinea is planning a comprehensive review of its mining licences that could disrupt a $1.35bn iron ore agreement between China’s Chinalco and Rio Tinto, a $2.5bn iron ore acquisition by Brazil’s Vale, and a slew of smaller mining deals in the mineral-rich west African state.

All mining companies in Guinea will have to submit to higher standards of transparency in order to invest, as will the countries from which they originate, according to a joint statement from Alpha Conde, Guinea’s new president, and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who advised him.

‘All contracts will be reviewed and reworked by the beginning of the second half of this year,’ said a senior official from Guinea’s ministry of mines at a conference in Paris on Thursday. ‘The government will become a minority shareholder in all mining contracts.'”

Source: Financial Times, March 7 2011

Observations:

  • According to the new licensing structure all foreign investors and their host countries will need to subscribe to the WorldBank’s EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). Furthermore the government will request minority ownership of all projects.
  • The most important mining project in the country is the iron ore complex around Simandou and Kalia. Rio Tinto and Chinalco, Vale, and Bellzone and CIF hold licenses to various blocks of the complex, from which production should start within 2 years.

Implications:

  • China and Chinese companies, as brought in by Bellzone and Bellzone, don’t subscribe to the EITI yet. This could lead to significant development delays and/or break-up of consortia. It is unlikely that the government will push the large foreign investors out of the projects, as they need the foreign money to get the projects going.
  • In the Economist’s country operational risk benchmark, Guinea ranks 149th out of 149 countries, tied with Iraq. The 10 risk categories included in the benchmark are: security; political stability; government effectiveness; legal and regulatory; macroeconomic; foreign trade and payments; financial; tax policy; labour market; and infrastructure. Next to the changing regulatory environment the infrastructure risk is important for Simandou’s projects, as Guinea and Liberia are fighting over the port to be used for shipping the ore and the way the ore should be transported to the port.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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