Guinea Alumina Corporation S.A. (“GAC”) is developing a bauxite mine and export facilities, while also refining its CSR policies. We speak to the company’s Director General Aissata Beavogui about this important project for Guinea.
I’m proud to be part of this project because it will bring hope and opportunities for Guinea,” Aissata Beavogui, Director General of Guinea Alumina Corporation S.A. (“GAC”) tell us.
Beavogui is spearheading the mining company’s bauxite export project, currently under construction in what is the largest greenfield investment in Guinea in four decades. A later phase envisages an alumina refinery.
GAC is passionate about the export project, though this is by no means the company’s sole focus. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and connecting with the national mining industry are also priorities for GAC. For instance, it is a platinum sponsor of the Symposium Mines Guinée – a summit organised by the Guinean government. We quiz Beavogui about GAC and how its ongoing project benefits Guinea.
Beavogui tells us that GAC was established in 2001. The project advanced well through completion of a Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) along with approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). However, the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 impacted the ability and interest of some of the partners to fund their share of equity.
Following a strategy change within BHP Billiton and Global Alumina in 2013, Mubadala and DUBAL of the United Arab Emirates acquired the remaining shares in the project in May 2013. They then transferred the ownership of GAC to the newly formed Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA).
“It was a very good thing for the country, because it’s the first-time the UAE has invested significantly,” Beavogui says. “Guinea is a major resource holder, and the UAE is an inspiring example of what countries with natural resources can do in development.”
EGA, which operates two aluminium smelters in the UAE, has consistently stated its strategic intent to secure raw materials through upstream investments in bauxite and alumina. Beavogui explains: “Strategically the objective is upstream integration from bauxite mining to alumina refining and then to the existing aluminium smelting. Ownership of a controlling position in bauxite is an important factor.”
The GAC bauxite mine project is a cornerstone of this strategy, which will ultimately yield a vertically integrated business with the capability of self-managing the processes from mine to metal.
The acquisition led to GAC revamping its whole infrastructure. Beavogui walks us through the current project. “Right now, we’re in the construction phase,” she explains. “We are constructing the infrastructure that will allow us to export bauxite. The global demand for high-quality bauxite is mostly in Asia, such as China, and is expected to grow significantly over the next decade.”
The infrastructure being built includes a multi-user port terminal, commercial quay and supporting infrastructure for mining, rail, and marine operations. GAC is also upgrading a rail system linking the mine to refinery locations, a harbour and channel works.
A later phase envisages the expansion of the bauxite mine and existing railway, expansion of the GAC Port Terminal and construction of an alumina refinery.
The mining services sector is a majorly competitive business, with Guinea being a current focus for major foreign investment. However, Beavogui asserts that GAC is at an advantage. She explains: “What differentiates GAC is the expertise. If you combine it with EGA, we have nearly 40 years of experience in the aluminium industry. We actively apply world-leading standards and technologies in all aspects of the project and we ensure that everything we do is in line with sustainable practices in environment, health and safety.”
We’re struck by two further unique GAC features. Firstly, the company is headed by Beavogui, a Guinean woman. “It’s always been the motto of EGA management that this is a Guinean project, therefore we need the face and the image of the Guinean people as it is their project,” she says.
The mining sector is notoriously male-dominated. In a 2014 study of the top 500 mining companies globally, Women in Mining UK found the mining industry had fewer women on boards than any other major industry. “I think it’s a big signal that EGA sent out in supporting women leadership by appointing me,” Beavogui, appointed in January 2016, says. “Especially in the context of my country where so few women are hired in high positions, we’re still struggling to have equality in industries such as mining or even the government itself.”
GAC’s social consciousness is also notable. The firm works with NGOs, contractors, consultants and local government services to implement community-based initiatives. Beavogui explains: “We have built a strong presence in-country with the support of the government and people of Guinea, and we are committed to creating an enduring legacy for the communities through infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, and a whole set of programmes for individuals impacted by our project.” These programmes include those that improve the productivity of livestock and agriculture for the impacted communities.
GAC also provides training for Guinean adults and youths. “We provide adult literacy training and local skills enhancement programmes,” Beavogui says. “We give information on health, for example drugs and alcohol, HIV programmes, or malaria.”
Alongside the Guinean people, GAC aims to play a pioneering role in Guinea. It aims to preserve a sustainable environment based on world-renowned and national standards. GAC works with the Guinean Ministry of Environment to apply for an EISA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) certificate. “In collaboration with our government, we have produced an action plan in order to suppress, eliminate or reduce the impact on the environment and communities,” Beavogui tells us. The action plan is followed and regularly checked by the government.
Along with implementing its environmental action plan, GAC has several other ambitious future plans. For instance, it will share its accrued knowledge with attendees of Symposium Mines Guinée in May 2017.
GAC’s future plans also extend outside of Guinea. When asked whether the firm wanted to expand its international market, Beavogui responds: “Absolutely, we are keen to sell our bauxite wherever the market leads us. Wherever the demand is, we will provide.”
GAC’s ambitions sound grand, yet achievable. Guinean bauxite is amongst the highest quality worldwide. GAC’s bauxite mine is in the Boké region of north-west Guinea, where it holds a concession on more than one billion tonnes of bauxite. Balanced with extensive CSR policies, GAC’s wider goals cement the firm as a definite ‘one to watch’ on the global mining stage.