Iron Mine on Simandou Mountain Range, Mine de Fer, Guinée

Simandou ore deposits simoultaneously generate hope, disarray and concerns. Yet corruption, pollution and biodiversity loss leave little space for the local peasants' worries.


Description

En Francais ci-dessous ----- Simandou iron deposit in South-West Guinea is well-known for the decades of a corruption saga, documented by the foreign press and discrediting mining multinationals and Guinean former political leaders. Alpha Condé became in 2010 the first democratically elected President of his country. He set up a committee, the Technical Committee for the Review of Titles and Mining Conventions, to review past contracts. In 2014, one of this committee’s investigations gathered the proofs accusing BSG Resources (BSGR) of obtaining the permits to exploit blocks 1 and 2 of Simandou deposit after the payment of briberies to the late dictator Lansana Conté’s wife, Mamadie Touré. She received more than 3 million dollars from BSGR’s representatives. Rio Tinto was the original major owner of the entire site. It kept the commercialization of the exploitation on hold for more than two decades in blocks 3 and 4 (undisputed with BSGR). It completed several constructions works (on blocks 3 and 4) on the peak of Simandou mountain range. Even though the commercial exploitation has not started yet, the infrastructures built during the exploration and construction phases have already been disturbing the hydrological connectivity of the area and it has reduced the water quality of many streams. Action Mines has reported on the voices from the communitiesliving downstream who have no more access to drinkable water as they used to. The local inhabitants asked Rio Tinto to drill wells so they could have access to underground water, but their claims were ignoredRoads built by Rio Tinto to access the site have also divided farming lands. As a result, because of this and because of the difficult water supply, the locals attest a decrease in their farming productivity, potentially affecting their future living conditions and good nutrition. Additionally, their everyday lives are also affected by the invasion by wild animals, like snakes, fleeing the exploitation site. Even though the actual commercial exploitation of the site has not started yet, adverse effects of the exploration phase are already occurring. What’s more, the impacts on the biodiversity conservation are anticipated to be considerable. Several species are going to be jeopardized since their natural habitats are inside the concession areas. This is the case of the endemic species such as the Western African chimpanzees and the Diana monkeys, living in Pic de Fon, a relatively so far intact area of 25.600 ha. The government, the company and the local communities signed agreements, where Rio Tinto compelled itself to hire local work force. Still the agreements have not been respected by Rio. Since the commercial exploitation never started, very few people were actually hired while local work force was not privileged; their lack of expertise was blamed by Rio. The non-employment of the local youth is the main source of discontent among the population. While at the same time, the arrival of new Rio Tinto’s employees from outside the villages and incoming people looking for a job, disturbed the social cohesion and life became more expensive. Since BSGR's arrival in December 2008, all operations at Simandou's site have been suspended. However, the joint venture between BSGR and Vale (VBG) began mining the iron ore on the Zogota deposit, less than 150 kilometers south of the Simandou mountain range. In 2012, the inhabitants of Zogota were demanding jobs in the mining site, asking VGB consortium to give the priority to the local workforce. The villagers occupied the mine site where they perpetrated acts of vandalism. Following these facts, Guinean law enforcement and security forces intervened on the night of 3 to 4 August 2012 to dislodge them. However, this operation was nothing other than a punitive expedition, which became a real massacre. On that night, six villagers were killed, several wounded, and the police was responsible for the destruction of property and acts of torture. In 2012, a complaint was lodged against state officials at first instance at a Guinean court. But the prosecutor declared himself incompetent for trying the suspects. In September 2018, the NGO Rights for All filed an additional complaint to that first complaint, against the company Vale for providing the Guinean law enforcement forces with the logistical and material means necessary for this massacre. In fact, on the night of the massacre, the villagers recognized the company's vehicles. Vale company claims to have never supported this repression and says that it only evacuated its staff. However, the NGO supports it has collected evidence on the ground of this complicity. Finally, given the inertia of Guinean justice, the NGO also filed a complaint against the Guinean State before the ECOWAS court.

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Basic Data
NameIron Mine on Simandou Mountain Range, Mine de Fer, Guinée
CountryGuinea
ProvinceCalmonz and Kankan regions
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesIron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsSimandou is a montains range 100 km long. It is estimated to be the major iron reserve of Guinea and one of the most important world-wide with reserves estimated to be more than 2.4 billion tons. Simandou concessions consist of 4 blocks. The scandals of corruption concern blocks 1 and 2 (North). Rio Tinto was granted the concession permits for the whole deposits in the 1990s. But in 2008 half of its rights were took away and granted to BSGR. The conditions of the deal were very suspicious since BSGR did not pay anything to the Guinean government but committed to invest 165 million dollars for exploration. Finally, in 2010, BSGR sold its concession rights to the Brazilian Vale. The deal was sealed for 2.5 billion dollars. But Vale only paid 500 million dollars, until the corruption scandal about how BSGR obtained the concessions rights burst. In 2014, Rio Tinto “has filed its own lawsuit against both Vale and BSGR for what it qualifies as a “steal” of its previously-owned concessions.”[1] New York court dismissed Rio Tinto’s complaint on a technicality, for having waited too long (more than 4 years) [2]. Frederic Cilins, an associate of Steinmetz, the owner of BSGR was arrested by the FBI in March 2013 and sentenced to two years prison in 2014. In a meeting with Mamadie Touré, she recorded him asking her to destroy corrupted contracts.

The life expectancy is of at least 30 years with an estimated annual production up to 95 million tons per year. For the site to become operational, three components are required to be built. First the mine infrastructure itself, secondly a 650km long railway, connecting Simandou to a port on the Atlantic coast for the ore exportation, and lastly the port in Forécariah prefecture, in the south of the capital Conakry. Several contractors were involved in preliminary phases of construction and studies. For instance, “SRK Consulting Company provided geotechnical design of the open pits and waste dumps for the pre-feasibility study. AECOM carried out the feasibility study (…) for the railway”[3]. The ownership of blocks 3 and 4 was before split between the Republic of Guinea (7.5%), Rio Tinto (46.57%), Chinalco (41.3%) and International Financial Corporation (4.625%, IFC: World Bank entity). The mine was expected to start operating in 2014. But nothing happened. Its start kept on being delayed by Rio Tinto. In October 2016, Rio Tinto sold all its interests in the deposit to Chinalco and the transaction cost was between 1.1 and 1.3 billion dollars [4]. In 2011 Rio Tinto’s executives made a 10.5 million dollars payment to a French banking consultant François de Combret, Alpha Condé’s close friend, for obtaining crucial information from the new elected Guinean government [5]. An investigation discovered this corruption scandal a month after Rio Tinto withdrew from the project [6]. IFC also left the project and so Chinalco is the only current owner of blocks 3 and 4; together with the governmental small ownership. By May 2017, Chinalco asked the Guinean government to be granted the concessions of blocks 1 and 2 as well [7]. Nevertheless an open tender process is required by the new mining code adopted in 2011. The negotiations are still ongoing. Chinalco is suspected to also delay for one more decade the beginning of the exploitation since the iron market is saturated.

EN FRANCAIS ---- Simandou est une chaine de montagnes de 100 km de long. Il est estimé que c'est la principale réserve de fer de Guinée et l'une des plus importantes dans le monde, avec des réserves estimées à plus de 2,4 milliards de tonnes. Les concessions de Simandou se composent de 4 blocs. Les scandales de corruption concernent les blocs 1 et 2 (Nord). Rio Tinto a obtenu les permis de concession pour l'ensemble des dépôts dans les années 1990. Mais en 2008, la moitié de ses droits ont été retirés et accordés à BSGR. Les conditions de la transaction étaient très suspectes puisque BSGR n'a rien payé au gouvernement guinéen mais s'est engagée à investir 165 millions de dollars dans l'exploration du site. Enfin, en 2010, BSGR a vendu ses concessions l’entreprise brésilienne Vale. L'opération a été scellée pour 2,5 milliards de dollars. Mais Vale n'a payé que 500 millions de dollars, jusqu'à ce que le scandale de corruption n’éclate. En 2014, Rio Tinto a engagé un procès contre Vale et BSGR [1]. Le tribunal de New York a rejeté la plainte sur un aspect technique : pour avoir attendu trop longtemps (plus de 4 ans) [2bis]. Frédéric Cilins, associé de Steinmetz (propriétaire de BSGR) a été arrêté par le FBI en mars 2013 et condamné à deux ans de prison en 2014. Lors d'une réunion avec Mme. Mamadie Touré, elle l'a enregistré lui demandant de détruire les contrats corrompus. L'espérance de vie du site sera d'au moins 30 ans avec une production annuelle estimée jusqu'à 95 millions de tonnes de fer par an. Avant l’entrée opérationnelle de la mine, trois constructions sont nécessaires. D'abord le complexe minier lui-même, un chemin de fer de 650 km de long, reliant Simandou à un port sur la côte atlantique et enfin la construction du port, au sud de la capitale Conakry, pour l'exportation du fer. La propriété des blocs 3 et 4 était répartie entre la République de Guinée (7,5%), Rio Tinto (46,57%), Chinalco (41,3%) et la Société financière internationale (4,625%, IFC: entité de la Banque mondiale). Il était attendu que la mine commence à fonctionner en 2014. Mais cela n’a pas été le cas. En octobre 2016, Rio Tinto a finalement vendu tous ses intérêts à Chinalco. Le coût de la transaction était entre 1,1 et 1,3 milliard de dollars [4bis]. En 2011, les dirigeants de Rio Tinto ont versé un paiement de 10,5 millions de dollars à un consultant bancaire français François de Combret, un ami proche d'Alpha Condé, pour obtenir des informations cruciales détenues par le nouveau gouvernement élu [5]. Une enquête a découvert ce scandale de corruption un mois après que Rio Tinto se soit retiré du projet [6]. L’IFC a également quitté le projet. Chinalco est donc le seul propriétaire actuel des blocs 3 et 4; le gouvernement étant un actionnaire très minoritaire. En mai 2017, Chinalco a demandé au gouvernement guinéen d’être octroyé les concessions pour les blocs 1 et 2 [7]. Néanmoins, le nouveau code minier adopté en 2011 requière un appel ouvert aux promoteurs. Les négociations sont toujours en cours. Chinalco est soupçonné de vouloir retarder encore d’une décennie supplémentaire le début de l'exploitation puisque le marché du fer est aujourd’hui saturé.
Level of Investment (in USD)20,000,000,000.00 (estimation for blocks 3 and 4 only)
Type of PopulationRural
Company Names or State EnterprisesRio Tinto (Rio Tinto ) from Australia
Minera Chinalco from China
BSG Resources from United Kingdom
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Consortium Vale-BSGR (VBG) from Guinea - Created for the joint exploitation of Simandou 1 and 2
Relevant government actorsComité technique de revue des titres et conventions miniers, présidences guinéennes
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Communauté économique des Etats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO) from Nigeria - Les victimes du massacre de Bogota portent plainte auprès de la cour de justice de la CEDEAO
International Finance Corporation (IFC)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCNOSC, Société Civile Guinéenne: http://www.societecivileguineenne-cnosc.org/ ; Action Mines: http://actionminesguinee.org/ ; Global Witness ; World Rainforest Movement; Les Memes Droits pour Tous: http://www.worldcoalition.org/Mmes-droits-pour-tous-MDT.html; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
OtherVillages invaded by wild animals fleeing the mining site.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession
Otherdecrease in crops' productivity
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Repression
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesCNOSC considers that the Guinean development must be based on the agriculture, a sustainable activity which is not a finite resource as ore deposits. It recommends the government to avoid prioritizing mining as an economic sector for Guinean development and economic growth. Action mines denounces politicians’ corruption in the mining sector. The national Ngo believes and works for a mining sector possibly beneficial for all Guineans and its poorest social classes if its incomes are to be distributed to the communities.



Le CNOSC considère que le développement guinéen doit être basé sur l'agriculture, une activité durable qui n'est pas une ressource finie comme le sont les ressources minières. Il recommande au gouvernement d'éviter de prioriser l'exploitation minière pour le développement et la croissance économique guinéens. Action Mines dénonce la corruption dans le secteur minier. L'ONG nationale croit et travaille pour un secteur minier bénéfique pour tous les Guinéens et ses classes sociales les plus pauvres, si les revenus du secteur sont redistribués aux communautés.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project is going to start but the local populations are still not being involved in the decision making process, their concerns being ignored.

Le projet est prévu sans que les populations locales ne participent aux prises de décision, leurs préoccupations sont ignorées.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

New Mining Code adopted in 2011 / Nouveau Code minier depuis 2011

References

Social and Environmental Impact Assessment, Simandou Project, Rio Tinto, 2011, English
[click to view]

Links

[1]War of Titans: Rio Tinto suing Vale over iron ore rights in Guinea, 30 April 2014
[click to view]

Guinea to strip Beny Steinmetz company of mining concessions, The Guardian, 9/04/2014
[click to view]

The tycoon, the dictator's wife and the $2.5bn Guinea mining deal , The Guardian, 30 July 2013
[click to view]

Rio Tinto sacks senior executives over $10.5m payments linked to Guinea mine, The Guardian, 17 November 2016
[click to view]

Scandal and intrigue overshadow environment at the Simandou mine in Guinea, Mongabay, 20 January 2015
[click to view]

Guinée : les milliards de Simandou, Le Monde Afrique, 24 Septembre 2013
[click to view]

BSGR to file multi-billion lawsuit against Rio over Simandou, Mining.com, December 12th, 2016
[click to view]

Guinée : comment s’est effondré le rêve de Simandou, Le Monde Afrique, 25 Juillet 2016
[click to view]

SIMANDOU: le rêve se brise un peu plus, 17 Mai 2017
[click to view]

Crying foul in Guinea, The Economist, December 4th, 2014
[click to view]

[4]Chinese buy world's largest mining project, Mining.com, 18/10/2016
[click to view]

[5] Audio recordings drag Guinea president into mine bribery scandal, France24, 9/12/2016
[click to view]

[2]Court dismisses Rio Tinto suit against BSGR, Vale over Guinea iron-ore mine, The Global and Mail, 23/11/2015
[click to view]

[4bis] Guinée : le géant minier Rio Tinto quitte définitivement le projet de fer Simandou, 30 Octobre 2016
[click to view]

Rio Tinto Simandou: Exporting Iron Mountains, National Geographic, January 27, 2014
[click to view]

[6]Rio Tinto suspends executive as it investigates Guinea payments, The Guardian, November 9, 2016
[click to view]

Mines de Simandou : Une Ong exprime des inquiétudes ! 23/06/2014
[click to view]

[2bis] Simandou : la justice américaine rejette la plainte de Rio Tinto contre Steinmetz et Vale, Jeune Afrique, 20/11/2015
[click to view]

Mines : l’israélien BSGR sort de l’ombre, Mars 2012
[click to view]

MINES : bras de fer dans le Simandou, Mai 2017
[click to view]

Les victimes survivantes d’un massacre en Guinée saisissent la justice internationale, Le Monde Afrique, Novembre 2018
[click to view]

Vale-BSGR lawsuit (re complicity in violence against villagers in Guinea)
[click to view]

Violences et tueries à Zogota : Déclaration de l’OGDH, Mars 2019
[click to view]

Zogota Data, Mining Atlas
[click to view]

Guinée- Mines: la chinoise Chinalco veut l'entièreté de Simandou, Mai 2017
[click to view]

Guinée : l’ultimatum du ministre des Mines au groupe Rio Tinto sur le gisement de Simandou, Octobre 2018
[click to view]

Mines : Chinalco joue avec les nerfs guinéens, Février 2018
[click to view]

Guinée : toute la chronologie de 20 années d’échecs sur Simandou, le plus grand gisement de fer inexploité au monde, Octobre 2017
[click to view]

Fer de Simandou : prescription pour la plainte de Rio Tinto contre Vale et BSGR, Novembre 2015
[click to view]

Bloc 1 et 2 du Simandou : "Le Président de la République a fait preuve d’un courage extraordinaire" selon Abdoulaye Magassouba, Mars 2019
[click to view]

[7] Beny Steinmetz settles dispute with Guinea over iron ore project, The Guardian, February 25th, 2019
[click to view]

Massacre de Zogota : la compagnie VALE visée par une plainte d’un collectif d’avocats guinéens, 12 Septembre 2018
[click to view]

Guinée : les victimes d’une répression à Zogota portent plainte contre Vale-BSGR, Novembre 2018
[click to view]

Accord entre BSGR et la Guinée sur Simandou et Zogota, février 2019
[click to view]

Simandou 1 Zogota iron ore mine, September 2018
[click to view]

[8] Blocs 1 et 2 du Simandou : « le Président de la république a fait preuve d’un courage extraordinaire. » (Ministre des Mines et de la Géologie), Mars 2019
[click to view]

Nous sommes aussi de Zogota, Aout 2017
[click to view]

Procès contre Vale-BSGR (pour complicité d’assassinats en Guinée)
[click to view]

Mick Davis’ Niron believes Zogota can unlock Guinea’s rich potential, February 2019
[click to view]

Simandou to start at 2Mt in 2012 - Vale, February 2011
[click to view]

[3bis]Simandou Iron Ore Project, Guinea, Mining Technology
[click to view]

[2bis] Guinée: plainte contre une société minière pour une répression meurtrière en 2012, Rfi Afrique, Septembre 2018
[click to view]

[3] Guinea government to strip Vale, BSGR of all Simandou rights, April 17, 2014
[click to view]

[10] Mines- Simandou : voici ce que Chinalco propose au gouvernement guinéen… Guinnetime.com, 17 Mai 2017
[click to view]

[9] Le magnat des mines Beny Steinmetz met fin au bras de fer avec la Guinée, 26 février 2019
[click to view]

Media Links

La voix des communautés riveraines des zones minières en Guinée - Exploitation du FER, Janvier 2016
[click to view]

Guinea's "Deal of the Century", Global Witness, 13 May, 2014
[click to view]

Simandou entre espoir et déception, Action Mines, Avril 2017
[click to view]

Guinée, Renforcement des droits des populations en zone minière, 18 mars 2016
[click to view]

Projet Amines: La voix des communautés riveraines des zones minières en République de Guinée
[click to view]

Action Mines Guinée constate avec indignation la multiplication des scandales de corruption dans le secteur minier, 9 Decembre 2016
[click to view]

Guinea’s bribery saga reaches new peaks, Global Witness, March 1st, 2017
[click to view]

Pépé Jérôme Haba : "Ce que Zogota a subit est cruel, except, 22 janvier 2014
[click to view]

Simandou/accord BSGR-Guinée : un ancien conseiller des mines à la présidence et au ministère des mines, Février 2019
[click to view]

Other Documents

View on peaks from the Pic de Fon area (25.600 ha) Source. Rio Tinto Simandou
[click to view]

Aerial view of the Simandou iron ore project Source. Rio Tinto Simandou 2016
[click to view]

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ContributorEnvJustice team
Last update05/03/2019
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