* Guinean mining long plagued by graft, mismanagement
* Soros-backed watchdog hails transparency initiative
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, Feb 15 Guinea's government on Friday
published contracts it has signed with mining firms including
majors Rio Tinto and RUSAL in a bid for more
transparency in a sector plagued by corruption and
President Alpha Conde vowed after taking office in 2010
following his election to revamp the minerals-rich but
underdeveloped West African nation's mining sector and review
existing mining contracts.
The government is also overhauling the country's mining code
and has set up a technical committee to review existing accords,
all of which are now published online on a new government
Guinean officials have said many of the contracts were
signed under non-transparent conditions especially during the
rule of a military junta before Conde's 2010 election. The
government says such accords do not benefit the country.
"For a very long time, the Guinean mining sector was
characterised by opaqueness, poor governance and inefficiency,"
Guinean Mines Minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana said in Conakry.
"Today, we are setting a very important milestone in the
process of implementing transparency," Fofana told reporters
during a presentation of the website.
Resources watchdog Revenue Watch, backed by billionaire
George Soros, is advising the Guinean government on transparency
and how to get more from negotiations with mining firms.
Revenue Watch said in a statement on Friday that the
government had said it would publish online any amended contract
and all future contracts.
"Guinea's action is a model for other countries and
demonstrates that making contracts public is possible even in
challenging environments," Patrick Heller, senior legal adviser
at Revenue Watch said in the statement.
The watchdog, together with the World Bank Institute and
Columbia University, helped the government set up the website.
Though not the first country to make its mining contracts
publicly available - such deals are sometimes protected by
confidentiality clauses - Guinea is one of the first states in
Africa to publish all of its existing contracts and annexes.
The website so far has more than 60 contract documents
covering 18 mining projects, Revenue Watch said.