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Guinea Mining “Totally Corrupt”: Are Kickbacks from Future Mining Deals the Real Reason Konate’s Gov’t. Has Been Stalling on Election?

October 24, 2010

“The transitional government was not at all responsible for signing mining contracts, but for organising the elections. The two candidates have committed themselves to cancelling all these contracts,” said the executive secretary of the National Council of Organisations of Civil Society, Aziz Diop.

Guinea mining ‘totally corrupt’
2010-10-24 14:26
Laurence Boutreux

Conakry – Multinational firms have fought for years to control Guinea’s enormous mineral wealth, leaving the future president with a totally corrupt sector to clean up, according to critics in civil society.

“We are the world’s second largest bauxite producer, we have iron ore reserves envied by everybody, we have gold, diamonds, oil, etc. But we vegetate in misery. We lack even water and electricity,” said Mamadou Taran Diallo, president of the Guinean coalition of Publish What You Pay, a global initiative.

The president scheduled to be elected on Sunday, amid hopes that he will turn the poor west African country around after decades of dictatorship or military rule, “should carry out a clean-up,” said Diallo.

“This is a battle. It has to be fought and won, this time,” he warned, in remarks aimed at the two candidates, former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and veteran opposition figure Alpha Conde.

The first challenge is to sort out the contracts “negotiated under the table and rushed through” in recent years, notably under the transitional regime in power since January led by General Sekouba Konate, Diallo said.

Corrupt mining environment

“The transitional government was not at all responsible for signing mining contracts, but for organising the elections. The two candidates have committed themselves to cancelling all these contracts,” said the executive secretary of the National Council of Organisations of Civil Society, Aziz Diop.

Recently, “a contract signed with an American company to prospect for gas and oil offshore shocked a lot of Guineans. A front company acquired the rights to sell them again fast, in pure speculation,” Diop charged, adding that Guinea had a “totally corrupt mining environment.”

“Chinese companies also are there, with their arsenal of corruption, to get at the iron and the bauxite under a barter system – ‘You give us your minerals and we will give you infrastructure’,” he added.

When Captain Moussa Dadis Camara led the junta, the regime was strongly criticised for signing a contract with the China International Fund, a few weeks before the massacre of 157 opposition protestors at a rally in Conakry in September 2009. The agreement provided for investments worth $6.3bn in infrastructure.

“Since then, China International Fund has entered into a joint venture with the Australian company Bellzone Mining to exploit one of the largest untouched iron ore deposits in the world, that of Kalia, at Faranah”, said specialist journalist Aboubacar Akoumba Diallo, who works for L’Aurore newspaper.

Elsewhere, immense iron ore reserves in the Simandou Mountains of the southeast are the object of a ferocious struggle between mining giants.

These firms have promised gigantic investments: 2.9 billion dollars from the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto group associated with the Chinese firm Chinalco; and 2.5 billion dollars from the Brazilian company Vale linked to a subsidiary of the Israeli Beny Steinmetz Group (BSG-Resources).

“In fact, these firms are at the stage of study and exploration. Guineans suspect some of them simply want to hold on to the reserves, the better to speculate on the market” in expectation of a rise in prices, Diallo said.

For this journalist, what awaits the next president is “a whole basketful of problems” because “each company now has its godfathers in the national administrative system, who help them to get by without respecting the regulations.”

“If he (the incoming president) takes the risk of destabilising these mining companies, they in turn can destabilise his power,” Diallo warned.

– SAPA

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