Guinea boosts power output to encourage bauxite refining

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The Energy Minister, Cheick Taliby Sylla said Guinea expects to boost its energy production capacity by nearly four-fold over the next six years as it pushes mining companies to refine their bauxite output locally.

Guinea, which is Africa’s biggest producer of the aluminium ore, is in the midst of a mining boom that has seen bauxite output explode, mainly on the back of demand from China. It now accounts for more than half of China’s bauxite imports.

In a bid to use the mining sector to fuel economic development, the government is pressuring mining companies to commit to building facilities that will refine bauxite into higher value alumina, which is used in smelters to produce aluminium.

On the sidelines of a mining conference in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, Sylla said “mines are, quite simply, development. And the mines can’t develop without energy”.

Guinea currently has power production capacity of just 658 megawatts. Much of the country has no access to electricity, and even the capital experiences frequent blackouts.

Experts have questioned the feasibility of establishing a power-thirsty refining sector, but Sylla said several projects in the pipeline will significantly boost output in the near future.

Sylla revealed that “by 2025, we will have around 2,600 megawatts in terms of total production. We can dedicate a quantity to (the mining companies) … We will guarantee that supply of energy”.

The 450-megawatt Souapiti hydro-electric dam, which is being built by China Water Electric with $1.3 billion in financing from China Exim Bank, is the first large-scale project expected to enter production and will go online next year.

Sylla said 1.3 billion cubic meters of water will be directed into the dam’s reservoir during the country’s rainy season later this year. Around 15,000 people are being displaced by the project.

Guinean Mines Minister Abdoulaye Magassouba said the increased power availability should drive companies to stick to the refining timetables set out in their agreements with the government.

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