Oct 26 2008

Protestor Killed in Guinea Bauxite Mining Protest

CONAKRY, GUINEA – At least one person was killed when police in Guinea cleared protesters from a railway carrying bauxite for Russian aluminium company RUSAL, police and industry sources said on Friday the 10th of October. RUSAL, after it’s merger with Glencore, is the largest owner of Century Aluminum, which owns the Grundartangi smelter in Iceland and has been preparing to construct a new smelter at Helguvik, south of Reykjavik. The trains, which have been blocked for five days, had still not restarted, the sources added.

Local residents demanding mains electricity and regular running water supplies blocked the railway at Mambia, between RUSAL’s Kindia mine and the port of Conakry, the coastal capital of the West African state.

Armed police moved in on Thursday to clear the demonstrators and at least one person was killed and several were wounded, police and witnesses said. “All of the barricades have been removed … but for security reasons, since there was one person killed yesterday, the train shuttle has not restarted yet,” an employee of RUSAL’s Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia (CBK) told Reuters.

Asking not to be named, he said authorities were worried about possible sabotage against the railway by angry locals.

RUSAL did not immediately respond to emailed requests for an update on the situation.

The company had said on Wednesday the blockage of the trains “does not affect the company’s overall performance targets”.

Guinean government officials flew to the area to talk with local people about their grievances.

Although Guinea is the world’s top exporter of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium, most Guineans live in extreme poverty despite the country’s mineral riches. While resource firms are keen to launch operations there, analysts say political instability is a concern for investors.

As well as RUSAL, U.S. aluminium company Alcoa and London-listed Rio Tinto dig bauxite in Guinea. Rio is also majority owner of Simandou, which it says is the richest unexploited iron ore deposit in the world.