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Guinea tries to resolve dispute with Russians

Guinean mines minister
Mahmoud Thiam
Conakry, Guinea — MININGREVIEW.COM — 02 March 2010 – Guinea’s new government has confirmed that it is prepared to talk with UC RUSAL in an effort to resolve the dispute over the Russian group’s ownership of the Friguia aluminium refinery in the West African country.

A Guinean court ruled last year that RUSAL had bought Friguia “’ the biggest industrial project in the country “’ illegally in 2006, vastly underpaying for the factory, but RUSAL refused to accept the decision.

Last year, Guinean mines minister Mahmoud Thiam said figures seen by the government had indicated Friguia had been sold for around $20 million (R150 million), far below independent valuations of US$250 million (R1.8 billion).

“We have decided to sit down at the negotiating table,” Thiam told Reuters here. “Things will be simple when we talk.”

“The talks were due have begun yesterday, but Guinea had yet to choose its representatives,” Thiam said.

“If the company says that it doesn’t need to do anything, they have to prove it,” he added. “If they recognise that they must do something for us, they must pay. The terms of payment can be discussed at that point,” he said.

RUSAL has reaffirmed that it has agreed to create a joint body with Guinea’s new government to settle the dispute.

“Since the September judgment, they have refused to make a decision based on that, because they say the tribunal in Conakry was acting outside its authority, Thiam explained. “We asked them to take it to an international tribunal, but they didn’t do that either, so we’ve invited them to the negotiating table,” he said.