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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Guinea Signs Military, Bauxite Deals

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Russia signed military and other agreements with Guinea on Friday, reaffirming bonds with former Soviet allies in West Africa.

Guinean President Lansana Conte and President Vladimir Putin signed a wide-ranging declaration of friendship and partnership, covering issues from arms to aluminum.

Guinea, which is fighting Sierra Leonean and Liberian rebels along its southern border, is shopping for weapons, especially after an explosion destroyed a major stockpile of arms in March. "Our subregion is suffering more than a little since the beginning of the war between Sierra Leone and Liberia," The Associated Press quoted Conte as saying.

"[We want to] obtain a sufficient stock of arms to repulse and crush any rebel incursion … [and] replace stocks of arms destroyed in the explosion at the Alpha Yaya arms dump," Reuters quoted a senior Guinean Foreign Ministry official as saying.

News agencies quoted Putin as saying, "We are aware of the difficulties faced by you, Mr. President, and your colleagues … have good experience in cooperation, which has existed for more than 40 years."

The Soviet Union had a strong presence in Africa, aiding communist regimes in development in return for arms sales and access to natural resources.

The declaration of friendship signed by the two presidents also envisioned cooperation in bauxite and alumina production, Interfax reported.

According to local news reports, Conte's visit was sponsored by Russian Aluminum, or RusAl. Conte and RusAl CEO Oleg Deripaska signed an agreement Friday for the development rights to Guinea's coveted Dian-Dian bauxite deposit, according to a RusAl spokesman, who declined to give details.

Analysts said the deal was good for RusAl as it has more production capacity than access to bauxite or alumina.

Guinea has about 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's known reserves of bauxite, the key raw material in aluminum production. Bauxite accounted for more than 90 percent of Guinea's $86 million worth of exports last year, Kommersant newspaper reported Saturday.

With 1 billion tons of high-quality bauxite ore with an average alumina content of about 50 percent, the Dian-Dian deposit is one of the world's largest, and negotiations to develop it have dragged on for years. Part of the plan, according to Interfax, is to create a single Guinean bauxite-alumina complex in a consortium with Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Such a project would cost an estimated $1.73 billion and would produce 11 million tons of bauxite and 1.2 million tons of alumina annually.