The Simandou project provides access to one of the world's largest untapped (over 2 billion tonnes), high grade iron ore resources in the world. It can sustain a mine life in excess of 40 years and has the potential to make Guinea one of the world's top iron ore exporters.
The project will comprise three principal components:
- the Simandou mine - an open pit mine with an anticipated peak production of ~100 million tonnes of iron ore per year at full production
- a Trans-Guinean railway of approximately 650km to transport the ore from the mining concession to the Guinean coast
- a new deepwater port currently planned to be located south of Conakry in the Forécariah prefecture
A project of this nature is challenging and requires a unique approach to development. This is why we have developed a partnership structure - which includes the Government of Guinea, Chinalco and the IFC, a member of the World Bank - and combines world class leadership, sovereign authority and expertise governed by global standards.
The concession licence-holder and project company is Simfer S.A., which is owned by Rio Tinto (50.35%), Chinalco (44.65%) and the IFC (5%).
In April 2011, Rio Tinto and the Government of Guinea signed a Settlement Agreement that secures Rio Tinto's mining title in Guinea and provides the Government of Guinea with the right to take a stake of up to 35 per cent in Simfer S.A. (the mine).
Simandou has the potential to be transformative for Guinea. The project will make a remarkable contribution to the Guinean economy, to upskilling and employment; and procurement from Guinean suppliers. It can help unlock additional value through its investments in roads, rail, freight and passenger services, a multi-purpose port, telecommunications, urban infrastructure, housing, local enterprise support and general economic activity.
Rio Tinto is focusing on developing Simandou with high standards of health, safety, sustainability, environmental responsibility and corporate governance.
The project is already creating jobs, improving infrastructure, increasing economic development and bringing international expertise to Guinea. It will also enhance environmental conservation and social development, and generate money for local economic development in one of the poorest parts of Guinea.
Rio Tinto is making a great effort at Simandou to ensure that economic activities related to exploration and development maintain environmental quality and foster economic prosperity and social wellbeing. The mining operations and rail link will have a positive effect on the Guinean economy and represent one of the biggest foreign investments West Africa has seen in many years.
Simfer S.A. submitted the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) for the Mine and Rail components of the Simandou Project to the Government in September 2012. The SEIA has recorded baseline conditions to enable ongoing assessment of the impact of the mine, rail and port development.
The prospect of an environmentally sensitive mining development at Simandou presents a challenge but also an opportunity to integrate poverty alleviation, rural development and biodiversity management.
Rio Tinto began extensive biodiversity studies in Guinea in 1997. In 2002 and 2003 the Group embarked on a new round of biodiversity field work with experts from Conservation International. In 2008, Rio Tinto continued to advance extensive flora and fauna studies with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
More recently the results of these detailed studies have been superimposed on the project's mine plan to enable engineers to take into account biodiversity considerations when designing the structure of the operations.
To ensure biodiversity management, Rio Tinto conducted social and environmental programmes from the outset. These have aimed at enhancing the benefits of the project for the local communities, while minimising potential adverse impacts. Initiatives include:
- Identification and assessment of local communities
- Community discussion on improving quality of life
- Establishing a fund based on mining revenue to finance local development projects
The Guinea Buy Local Program (GBLP) is Rio Tinto's initiative to take proactive measures to contribute to the economic and social development of Guinea.
Rio Tinto has signed a cooperation agreement with the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group the largest global development institution focused on the private sector. Through this agreement, the IFC brings its experience and knowledge of worldwide emerging markets to support the implementation of the GBLP.