Guinea: Obstacles, Omens and Opportunities

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"Interest groups argue for communities in mining areas to be directly involved in discussions on contracts."

The wealth of Guinea's resources has been repeatedly documented. In addition to the huge reserves of iron ore and bauxite, there are large deposits of diamonds and gold, as well as titanium, manganese, copper, nickel, zircon, platinum and uranium. "There are a lot of companies coming in, but we must choose those that can really bring something to Guinea," Condé has emphasized. "It is for us to defend our own interests, to create competition between different interests and work out who is bringing most to Guinea."

At a recent meeting in Conakry, the Publish What You Pay coalition argued for communities in mining areas to be directly involved in discussions on contracts. Civil society activists hope that Guinea's renewed membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) may help create more transparency and accountability. Whatever corporate players come and go, small-scale artisanal mining will remain a crucial, if modest, source of income for large sections of the population.

Artisanal mining has been practiced since at least the 12th century and offers a modest livelihood to hundreds of thousands of Guineans today, particularly in the northeastern gold belt region of Haute-Guinée and in the riverbeds and other alluvial sites in the southeast. Conditions remain precarious. A technical mission by the Blacksmith Institution and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 2006 warned of serious safety and sanitation concerns and suggested artisanal mining in Guinea was a long way behind other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, describing the gold processing methods used as "the most primitive ones on the planet."

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