West Africa Rising: Guinea to sign $5.8 billion mining deal with Chinese firm

China Power Investment would finance the construction of a coal power plant, a deep water port, and a refinery in exchange for digging rights.

West Africa Rising is a weekly look at business, investment, and development trends.

In Conakry, Guinean officials are on the verge of signing a $5.8 billion mining deal with a Chinese state-owned fund, Reuters reports.

In return for digging rights to a plot outside the capital, China Power Investment would finance the construction of a coal power plant, a deep water port, and a refinery long sought after by the nation's rulers.

West Africa's newest democracy sits on top of half the world's reserves of bauxite, the principle ore used in aluminum. From independence until last year, Guinea was brutally ruled by a sequence of dictatorships. Now the former French colony is looking to make up five lost decades through quick swaps of mining rights for infrastructure.

Its latest deal with China – and there have been several, including billions of dollars in trade of bauxite for ports, roads, railroads, and housing – would see the rising world power construct what be only Guinea's second refinery.

That alone is a symbolic victory for a country that hoards so much of the ore, yet uses so little of it, and refines almost none of it.

As China rises, Guinea finds itself in the center of a commodity boom – and benefiting from the Asian power's largesse.

Last month, the country announced that China would build Guineans a $526 million hydroelectric dam. In February, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi announced his country would boost investment in Guinea, in areas like infrastructure, agriculture, and telecommunications.

And yet the People's Republic has company – and competition – in its bid for West Africa's underground riches.

Last month, Indian miner Vedanta bought up a Liberian iron ore company to further its hold on China's iron market. Much of China's iron comes from Indian mines. China only mines 10 percent of the iron it uses.

By 2021, however, the country is aiming to mine half of the iron it uses, either at home – or, more likely, in West Africa, in mineral-rich and long-ignored states like Guinea.

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