Belinga iron ore mine and Belinga dam, Gabon

Large iron ore mine and related dams and railway in Gabon, to be developed by Chinese company. Opposition from Brainforest and activist Marc Ona Essangui


As explained by R. Dittgen (2011), Gabon is a sparsely populated state with a total of 1.5 million people and a low density of population. Historically, one of the major pillars of the “Françafrique”, its economy is largely dependent on petroleum-based rent.

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Basic Data
NameBelinga iron ore mine and Belinga dam, Gabon
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project Details1 billion tons iron ore, at 30 million tons per year.

The iron mine and the dams, and the railway would have a total cost of over 2 billion dollars.

The Belinga dam would have an installed capacity of 50 MW, a second dam Grand Pubara would have 250 MW.

Chinese investment in mining has been increasing in Gabon.

The Chinese company CMEC (and subsidiary Comibel) was to carry out the whole project, that would include also a railway to the coast. This is China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation.
Level of Investment (in USD)2,200,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date01/01/2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesChina National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CMEC, ) from China
Relevant government actorsSEM Societe Equatoriale des Mines

Ministry of Mines (Gabon)
International and Financial InstitutionsChina Export Import Bank from China
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBrainforest

Environnement Gabon
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite effort by EJO Brainforest and environmentalist Marc Ona Essangui, the government plans to move ahead in 2016 with a tender on the iron mine.
Sources and Materials

Blog entry in EJOLT, 2012
[click to view]

Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News, 2009
[click to view]

Roman Dittgen, 2011, New development cycle through long-term investment ? China and the Bélinga project in Gabon, Echo-Géo. n. 17.
[click to view]

Reuters, Emma Farge, interview with Gabon's officials, 2014
[click to view]

International Rivers, report on the Belinga dam
[click to view]

Other Documents

Waterfalls to be exploited by the Belinga Dam
[click to view]

Meta Information
Contributorprof. Joan Martinez Alier
Last update26/08/2015