FUZHOU, China (Reuters) - A unit of China’s biggest state-run aluminum firm, Chinalco, plans to start producing bauxite at its project in the West African nation of Guinea later this year or early in 2018, a company executive said on Thursday.
Guinea’s mines ministry said in August that Chalco, Chinalco’s listed arm, was set to invest $500 million to churn out bauxite, a raw material for aluminum, in the country’s north.
“It is predicted that at the end of this year or the beginning of next year we will launch,” Lu Dongliang, senior vice president at Chalco, told an industry conference in the Chinese city of Fuzhou when asked if the project had made any progress.
Guinea has about a third of the world’s bauxite reserves but annual output has lingered below 20 million tonnes for years, largely due to political instability.
Lu added that Chalco would increasingly turn to overseas markets such as Australia, Laos, Indonesia and Cambodia to secure supplies of bauxite, with China holding only around 3 percent of world reserves.
Chalco already holds interests in bauxite mines in Laos and Indonesia, although its mining in the latter has been suspended since 2014.
Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Joseph Radford