Guinea: Mixed feelings over Chinese take over of Guinea’s Bauxite mines

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China has agreed to take over all mining rights to Guinea’s reserves of bauxite, and construct ports, railway lines, power plants, low-cost housing and a new administrative centre in return. This transaction has however received praises and raised concerns altogether.

A national mining firm would be set up, to be run by the Chinese company, the mineral minister Mines minister Mahmoud Thiam has said. “All the government’s stakes in various mining projects will be put in that mining company. Future mining permits or concessions that the government decided to develop on its own will be put in that company,” Thiam said.

Guinea has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, an aluminum ore used for making Torpedo Cars, Electric Arc furnaces, Cement, etcetera. This resource will however be in the command of a Chinese firm under the Hong Kong registered China International Fund. In return, Guineans will see the rise of new buildings, road networks, social amenities, and economic infrastructures.

China has been praised by some think-tanks and some African leaders for opting to invest in infrastructure and business in Africa, rather than giving out aid money. But some analysts have accused China of doing business in Guinea, disregarding the civil situation in a country where the government’s legitimacy is in doubt. But Mr. Thiam has dismissed those concerns, saying the government is only trying to help the people.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China is now Africa’s second-biggest trading partner, behind US, with a trade relationship worth over $100bn. China exports $51bn, and imports $56bn from nations such as Angola, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Botswana and Sudan.

This deal between China and Guinea comes in the wake of recent riots that broke out in Guinea over the decision of military dictator, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, to run for president in the forthcoming national elections. After last December’s coup the military junta promised to lead a transitional government and hand power back to civilians after an election scheduled for January 2010. There have been widespread calls for the junta to step down, and a riot ensued in Conakry. But the army opened fire at protesters killing dozens of people. Guineans are currently on strike to remember the dead protesters killed by soldiers during the anti-Camara rally, two weeks ago.

The international and opposition groups within Guinea widely condemned the killings, but the junta has since denied ordering the soldiers to open fire at the crowd of protesters, and has stated that everything was under control. Agricultural Minister Abdourahmane Sano resigned on Monday October 12, saying he could no longer show solidarity with the government. West Africa’s economic bloc, Ecowas, has warned that the country is in danger of slipping into another dictatorship.

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