Bauxite mining industry of Guinea and future prospects

Guinea, a small West African country with a population of 12.4 million and an area of 245,857 square kilometres, with bauxite potential of about 40 billion tons is the largest bauxite ore exporter in the world today. During 2019, the country exported about 70 million tons of bauxite, which is likely to exceed 110 million tons by 2021.

This may substantially change the present bauxite market and significantly affect other bauxite producing countries of the world. Guinea exports one of the best and low-cost metallurgical grade bauxite in the world today.

The ore is natural low silica (2.5%), medium alumina (44-46%) gibbisitc bauxite, where reactive silica is only 1.2 to 1.5%, which makes this one of the best aluminium ore in the world. The present paper describes bauxite geology, basic characteristics, current and future bauxite mining, infrastructure developments and export from Guinea with details of various mining companies active in this country.  

 About 8 bauxite mining companies have put forward their plans to set up greenfield alumina refineries in Guinea and some of them are in the feasibility stage. In the past also, several attempts were made for value addition within the country, however, none of them materialized.

In order to have sustainable bauxite mining development and prepare local technical manpower for alumina refinery, Guinea must set up Bauxite-Alumina Institute and prepare/train locals to effectively run this vital industry.

BAUXITE MINING COMPANIES

There are at present 10 active bauxite mining companies in Guinea, the oldest among them is CBG and the largest producer is SMB-Winning Group. From a resource point of view, the CBG concession area is endowed with more than 4 billion tons of bauxite and this is the highest among all the operating bauxite mines.

Bauxite is mined by open cast mining method by drilling blasting as well by the surface miner. More and more Guinea bauxite is now being exploited by a surface miner as this is found an efficient and environment-friendly technique and does not require ore crushing.  

PRESENT MINING AND FUTURE

In the opencast mines of CBG, Bauxite is exploited by simple drilling-blasting technique and loaded into the trucks. Bauxite is crushed, blended and partly dried at Kamsar port before export. RUSAL at their Kindia operation uses Surface Miner to directly produce <100mm bauxite, which is exported from Conakry port without drying. SMB, a Chinese company, mines bauxite by drilling-blasting and exports medium grade (44%-45% Alumina) bauxite from the jetty on river Nunez. Now SMB is also using surface miner along with traditional drilling blasting.

There is no processing or beneficiation required for Guinea bauxite as they have natural low silica and except CBG other companies export bauxite without any drying. According to the plan of various active companies of Guinea, the bauxite production and export from Guinea is likely to increase significantly in the coming years.

There is a clear indication of increasing bauxite export from Guinea and more and more Chinese alumina refineries will depend on this ore.

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