French miner signs Guinea bauxite deal with Franco-Asian consortium

Conakry - France's Alliance Miniere Responsable (AMR) signed a deal on Wednesday with a Franco-Asian consortium to exploit bauxite in a western Guinean city that was recently the target of deadly protests against mining firms.

Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB), a joint French-Chinese-Singaporean venture, has been operating in the city of Boke since 2014, and completed the deal with AMR at a Conakry hotel, an AFP journalist present said.

Guinea is the world's leading producer of bauxite, a mineral used to make aluminium.

Pollution caused by bauxite mining and a lack of electricity and clean water for the local population led to April protests that killed one and injured dozens in Boke.

The death of a Guinean struck by a Chinese mining truck had also stoked tensions.

SMB is a joint venture by Singaporean maritime logistics firm Winning Shipping, specialist French transport firm United Mining Supply (UMS) and Chinese aluminium producer Shandong Weiqiao.

President Alpha Conde said in May that mining companies operating in Guinea must "ensure locals benefit from the proceeds" while following environmental regulations, "to avoid the same type of problems as (seen in) Boke."

Both firms said the harmonising of infrastructure would "reduce the negative environmental and social impact" of transporting mined bauxite.

AMR was granted a 15-year renewable permit last week to exploit an estimated 430 million tons of bauxite, aiming to produce 5 million tons per year.

High-profile French backers of the firm include Areva's former CEO Anne Lauvergeon, shipping magnate Edouard Louis-Dreyfus, and entrepreneur Xavier Niel.

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