Home > Corporate Social Responsibility > Vale woos Guinea with social projects

Vale woos Guinea with social projects

July 11, 2011

“Vale’s finance chief said the Brazilian miner would invest in development programmes in Guinea in an attempt to safeguard a $2.5bn mining concession and avoid making a large pay-out to the African country’s new government. In spite of still being vulnerable to a review of mining licenses in Guinea, Guilherme Cavalcanti said that Vale could win the government’s approval for its Simandou iron ore project that it shares with rival Rio Tinto by paying for education and agriculture in the communities where it mines.

‘Our approach to Africa in Guinea is not to become only a mining extraction [company] but bring country co-operation,’ he said. ‘So, as we do in Mozambique, we can help people in agriculture, we can help in education, we can train local people … So it’s more an approach to communities as well, not only mining extraction.’

Rio Tinto only gained clear tenure in Guinea in April after promising the government $700m in cash as well as rights to take up to a 35 per cent stake in Simandou. Simandou, one of the highest-quality untapped iron ore resources in the world, has attracted the two largest iron ore miners to Guinea despite the country’s history of volatile dictatorship, weak rule of law, and recurring threats of licence renegotiations.”

Source: Financial Times, July 6 2011

Observations:

  • The Simandou deposit is divided into 4 blocks: Vale controls blocks 1 and 2 with the Benny Steinmetz Group (BSG) as minority shareholder; Rio Tinto controls blocks 3 and 4 of the Simandou deposit, working together with Chalco. In an earlier stage Rio Tinto held title to the full deposit, but the Guinean government cancelled this deal.
  • In a review of mining licenses announced in March the Guinean government requires a minimum of 33% of ownership of strategic mining projects in the country to increase government control.
  • Rio Tinto struck a deal on the redistribution of ownership at the end of April, setting up a long term phased process of acquisition of ownership by the government. Furthermore the company agreed to a conditional one time $700mln payment to the government and promised to develop a railway to export the ore via a Guinean port.

Implications:

  • The social projects promised by Vale are a mere hygiene factor in the negotiations about transfer of ownership. The government will clearly expect any operating partner to take an active role in community development. However, Vale’s experience with large scale operations in developing areas in Brazil and Mozambique might help to gain trust.
  • Most likely Vale will agree on a conditional and phased deal similar to Rio Tinto’s agreement with the government. The agreement will be designed to make any payments or ownership deals conditional on crucial milestones and actions by the government. Vale will still need to decide on a way to export the ore, either negotiating to use the railway build by Rio Tinto, or setting up the infrastructure to export via Liberia.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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