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Guinea seeks to double share in mining projects

(Audio available further in this article)

CONAKRY/OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Guinea plans to boost its stake in mining projects to at least a third, its newly elected president said, a move that could rattle some of the world's biggest mining companies.

Rio Tinto and RUSAL have multi-billion dollar bauxite operations in the West African state, while Vale, Chinalco and others have planned major investments in iron ore.


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"There will be three to five difficult months, since we've decided not to renegotiate contracts but instead to define a new mining policy that will give Guinea at least a third," President Alpha Conde told reporters on Sunday in Burkina Faso.

He said Guinea would begin talks with international firms, but did not say when.

Guinea's current mining policy gives the state a minimum 15 percent stake in mining projects, meaning current mining contracts would need to be amended, a senior Mines Ministry official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"It is impossible to increase this participation without a renegotiation (of the contracts)," he said.

Guinea is the world's largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite and its iron ore deposits have drawn billions of dollars in planned investments.

Conde was elected in a hotly-contested poll in November that ended nearly two years of military rule and was billed as the former French colony's first free election since independence in 1958.

Conde had promised during his campaign to review all of the country's mining contracts, including several joint-venture deals that were signed during the junta rule.

Officials from Rio Tinto and Vale were not immediately available to comment.

By Mathieu Bonkoungou and Saliou Samb

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