CAPE TOWN, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Guinea expects production at aluminium producer Rusal’s Fria refinery to restart “within months”, thanks to conditions set as part of a deal signed with the Russian group late last year, a senior official said.
The 630,000 tonne per year plant has been shut since last April following a labour dispute. The 2006 deal in which the refinery was sold to Rusal has also been under review, as the current government has said the price was too low.
The restart of work at the refinery in Fria was a condition of the December deal with Rusal that agreed a schedule for the development of its separate, giant Dian-Dian bauxite deposit, said Ibrahima Camara, vice president of the technical committee reviewing Guinea’s mining contracts, on the sidelines of a mining conference.
“They committed to restarting Fria as soon as possible,” Camara said, adding the restart could take several months, given the lengthy stoppage.
A Rusal spokesperson in Moscow said the company was currently “examining the option” of a restart, but declined to comment further.
Camara’s committee is also reviewing mining contracts that include BSG Resources’s contract to mine half of the Simandou iron ore deposit, one of the largest in the world. Work has stopped since BSG’s partner Vale put the project on hold last year, citing uncertainties.
Camara confirmed the government had received responses to questions it had sent to BSG and would deliver its verdict by March, within the timetable set last year.
BSG, part of Israeli diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s business empire, said last week that it would consider “all available legal options” including international arbitration, in order to avoid expropriation. (Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; editing by Jason Neely)