As was the case in Kenya back in 2017, the credibility of this year’s presidential election will once again be decided by the Supreme Court ... after the Azimio La Umoja flagbearer Raila Odinga rejected the results terming them ‘null and void’.
In mid-June, Mamadi Doumbouya, who became transitional president following a military coup in Guinea, imposed a 14-day deadline on Rio Tinto and the Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS) to create a joint venture to exploit the Simandou iron ore deposit. Three weeks later, nothing has been done and tensions have risen.
In a statement released on 4 July, the Simandou project’s strategic committee, which is led by the head of the ruling junta, decided to order an “immediate” halt to all activities of the Anglo-Australian mining company and the Chinese-Singapore-Guinean company on blocks 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the world’s largest iron ore deposit.
Guinea “willing to exchange”
“After months of tough negotiations with the leaders of these two entities,” the transitional authorities point out that the deadlines were not met. “The partners hardly show their willingness to respect their commitments. […] They are still reluctant to sign the statutes to create the joint venture,” says the strategic committee.
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Doumbouya feels that the two mining companies are allowing this blockage to continue to the detriment of the project’s interests, particularly with regard to the formulation of the terms of the state’s participation in the joint venture. “Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS) and Rio Tinto Simfer are colluding to deny Guinea its rights as a co-shareholder and at the same time obstructing the project’s development,” said the head of the ruling junta.
“We note a gap between your vision of the implementation of the terms of the framework agreement and our expectations. The Guinean state not only finds this situation regrettable but also unacceptable,” he said on 17 June. Today, he says he is keeping “the doors of discussion open”, stressing that “Guinea remains willing to exchange with new partners” to create the joint venture and move forward with the Simandou project.
Construction of a railway
After reassuring the foreign groups that their agreement would be maintained, Doumbouya, dissatisfied with the returns of the project for Guinea, lobbied for the investment and infrastructure conditions of the Simandou mining project to change. In March, wanting to see “national interests […] preserved by [the] foreign operators”, he ordered that all activity on the site of the huge iron deposit cease.
Following this pressure tactic, an agreement was concluded after less than two weeks of very tense negotiations.
The Guinean government and the private players signed a deal to build a railway from Beyla to Forecariah (670 km) linking the deposit’s four blocks to the Moribaya deep water port. The contract also stipulates that a joint venture be created to develop the project by mutual agreement and that 15% of the railway and port be granted to the state, in addition to the 15% of the ore it already had.
The Anglo-Australian mining company and the Chinese-Singapore-Guinean company had also committed to completing infrastructure construction by December 2024 and starting commercial production at Simandou by the end of March 2025. At this rate, both partners risk penalties up to and including the withdrawal of their mining titles.
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