Guinea gives preliminary go-ahead for new bauxite project

CONAKRY, April 27 (Reuters) - Guinea’s government said on Friday that it had approved plans to award a mining contract to a Netherlands-based company to develop a $1.4 billion bauxite mine and aluminium refinery.

Guinea is Africa’s top bauxite producer and output more than doubled last year to about 50 million tonnes on the back of investments by Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan and Dadco.

Societe des Bauxites de Guinee (SBG), a subsidiary of MetalCorp Group, plans to develop a new concession in northwestern Guinea that the company says has proven reserves of more than 300 million tonnes in proven bauxite reserves.

According to a government summary, a cabinet meeting on Thursday authorised the drafting of a mining contract that would allow SBG to begin production by the end of 2022.

The mine is expected to produce 3 million tonnes of bauxite per year for export and 5 million tonnes to refine into aluminium at a nearby factory, the government said.

“It is a big project that will require a minimum investment of $1.4 billion,” Saadou Nimaga, secretary-general of the mines ministry, told Reuters.

MetalCorp did not immediately respond to a request for comment and government officials did not say when the contract was expected to be finalised.

The bauxite industry’s significance to Guinea’s economy has grown in recent years after development of huge iron ore deposits in its forested interior stalled when global commodities prices crashed in 2014. (Reporting By Saliou Samb; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Adrian Croft)