Guinea bauxite operations back to normal after political protests

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Mining operations in Guinea, Africa’s biggest bauxite producer, returned to normal on Thursday after days of slowed production caused by political protests, mine officials told Reuters.

At least nine protesters were killed this week during demonstrations in the capital Conakry and northern cities against a possible change to the constitution that could let President Alpha Conde seek a third term.

Executives from the consortium of Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB) and Singapore’s Winning, which is Guinea’s top exporter of the aluminum ore, and the Guinea Bauxite Company (CBG), told Reuters that full operations had resumed.

“We have been impacted by the protests, with around two-and-a-half slow days of production,” a CBG official told Reuters, estimating typical losses from a one-day halt to operations at around $1 million.

He said the train carrying bauxite to Russian aluminum producer Rusal and Emirati-owned Guinea Alumina Corporation, had been unable to run.

Rusal and GAC were not immediately available for comment.

SMB’s director general, Frederic Bouzigues, said trucks were blocked on Monday but that production had not been noticeably affected and was back to normal on Thursday.

Conde’s opponents called for a series of protests starting this week against the president’s announcement last month that he had instructed his government to look into drafting a new constitution.

The opposition fears a new constitution could be used to reset term limits that currently bar Conde from standing in next year’s election. Conde has refused to say whether he might try to run again.

Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Anna Pujol-Mazzini; Editing by Aaron Ross and Giles Elgood