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BHP Billiton to Halt Bauxite Exploration at Guinea’s Boffa Site

(Audio available further in this article)

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- BHP Billiton Ltd. plans to halt bauxite exploration at its Boffa-Santou-Houda site in Guinea, the world’s biggest exporter of the ore, after prices for aluminum dropped, said Jean-Francois David, the company’s president in the West African nation. “Explorations are stopped and all the activities will stop before June 30,” he said in an interview in Conakry, the capital, yesterday. The company will return its mining permits for the site to the government, David said.

 (To listen to this article, click on the player below)

{play}media/mp3/art2023.mp3{/play}

The world’s biggest mining company is halting exploration as aluminum prices slumped 18 percent after reaching a peak last year of $2,797 per metric ton on May 3. David said the stop is not linked to planned changes in Guinea’s mining code, that will give the government a bigger stake in projects.

“This closing is not due to the exploration results or Guinea mining policy, but to the decline in alumina and aluminum prices, and the world financial crisis,” he said.

Bauxite is turned into alumina that is in turn refined into aluminum. About four tons of the mineral is used to produce a ton of metal.

Workers went on strike at Boffa-Santou-Houda Jan. 24, asking for a 200 percent pay increase, union leader Bafode Cherif Camara said. The demand doesn’t make sense, given the site’s closing, David said.

“We are ready for the resumption of the dialogue, but on a realistic basis,” he said.

--Editors: Emily Bowers, Karl Maier

Source: Bloomberg

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