Mining for Development in Guinea: An Examination of the Simandou Iron Ore Project

The Simandou Mountain Range in Guinea possesses the world’s last substantial ‘tier-one’ iron ore deposit. Discovered in 1997, mining has yet to begin.

Rio Tinto acquired the original exploration rights but invested little in it. In 2008, two years after the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) began negotiations with the Guinean government, the late President Lansana Conté unilaterally stripped Rio Tinto of its rights to Simandou and granted them to BSGR. Exactly how Steinmetz acquired the rights is the subject of a US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe. This briefing examines this question and assesses the current situation. It argues that production is being hindered by infrastructure constraints and the question over whether to use the old Lamco railway line in Liberia or build a new line from Simandou to Conakry. It proposes that the former is optimal for catalysing regional development and ensuring that iron ore production begins as soon as possible.