CONAKRY (Reuters) - Sanctions-hit Russian aluminum producer Rusal restarted production at its Friguia alumina refinery in Guinea on Wednesday after a six-year hiatus, the West African country’s mines minister told Reuters.
Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer outside China, has been hit by U.S. sanctions since April, which analysts had said could delay the restart of the Friguia refinery.
But one day after Rusal said it had started shipping bauxite from its Dian-Dian bauxite project in Guinea to its alumina refineries in other countries, Friguia was officially reopened.
“The recovery of the Friguia plant will be gradual in two phases. The first phase aims to reach a capacity between 550,000 and 600,000 tonnes,” Abdoulaye Magassouba, Minister of Mines and Geology, told Reuters.
The second phase, which will begin in 2024, will boost capacity to 1.05 million tonnes per year by 2026, he said. Feasibility studies for the extension will begin in 2019.
Friguia’s annual production will be ramped up to 550,000-600,000 tonnes of alumina within twelve months, Rusal said in a statement. It made no mention of the second phase of the project.
“The commencement of shipments from the Dian-Dian deposit and the resumption of the operation of the Friguia alumina refinery are important developments both for Rusal and the Republic of Guinea,” the company said in the statement.
Guinea is vital for Rusal as the country accounts for 27 percent of the company’s production of bauxite, the ore that is refined into alumina and ultimately smelted into aluminum.
Reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry and Polina Devitt in Moscow; writing by Edward McAllister and Polina Devitt; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mark Potter