CONAKRY – Paris-based miner Alliance Miniere Responsable (AMR) began production at its Guinean bauxite mine on Tuesday, aiming to produce between 6-million and 10-million tonnes a year of the aluminium ore, the company said.
AMR was founded by two French businessmen, and major shareholders include former Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and French telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel.
A company statement said the mine's output will all be sold to Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB), a Guinean company whose main shareholders are Singapore's privately owned Winning International Group and China's Shandong Weiqao.
"It's all going to China," CEO and co-founder Romain Girbal told Reuters by telephone. By next year AMR should be producing about eight-million tonnes, but by the following year it should have exceeded the ten-million target, he said.
Guinea has about a third of the world's bauxite reserves, but annual production has hovered below 20-million tonnes a year for several years, owing largely to political instability.
Guinea has suffered periodic protests and riots in its bauxite-mining areas, like the town of Boke, by locals who complain of pollution and a perceived lack of jobs created by mining companies operating there.
Girbal said the company would operate in a more environmentally friendly way than some other operators.
"Regarding pollution, the main nuisance is dust. SMB and AMR are particularly aware of this and regularly water mining tracks, he said.
"AMR is going to use surface miners, a method that is more respectful of the environment and respectful of the population, starting in March. This will notably cause less dust."
An SMB spokesman said by email that according to new figures for 2017, SMB is on track to export 30-million tonnes of bauxite by the end of the year, double output in previous years and putting it ahead of formerly number one producer Guinea Bauxite Company (CBG), majority owned by Alcoa, Rio Tinto and Dadco.
Until 2015, CBG and Russia's RUSAL were the only companies that exported bauxite from Guinea.