Ivory Coast’s bauxite mine reopens

The Ivory Coast’s first bauxite mine has reopened after it was closed for months because of election-related violence, its chief executive said Saturday.

The mine that opened last year in the east central Moronou region is a centrepiece of Ivory Coast’s ambitions to wean itself off dependence on agricultural commodities.

Production stopped in August as violence increased in the buildup to the October 31 presidential election.

“Work has resumed, the expatriates have returned,” Moumouni Bictogo, chief executive officer of its concessionary, Lagune Exploitation Bongouanou (LEB), told AFP, referring to workers from Europe, Asia and the United States.

He said security has been reinforced, adding that the stoppage and problems over the novel coronavirus have caused the mine to lose the equivalent of 7.6 million euros in sales.

He said the difficulties have prompted a revision of plans to peak mine output in 2020, including exports to foreign refiners.

“We are counting on reaching our cruising speed not before the first quarter of 2021 and produce more than two million tonnes of bauxite ore in the next two years,” Bictogo said.

LEB also plans to transform 100,000 tonnes of bauxite ore from the third year, through a carbonization process, in order to extract a semi-finished product with added value.

The 13,000-hectare (32,000-acre) site holds an estimated 245 million tonnes of bauxite ore, the raw material for aluminium.

The mine, which employs 200 people, aims for 1,250 employees with its development project.

The electoral violence claimed the lives of at least 85 people and wounded nearly 500 others since August, according to an official toll.

President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected to a controversial third term in the face of an opposition which boycotted the vote and called for civil disobedience.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s economic capital, is 200 kilometres (120 miles) away from the mine.

Ivory Coast has abundant mineral treasures, including gold, diamonds, iron, nickel, copper and manganese, as well as bauxite.

But mining accounts for only five percent of gross domestic product in an economy still dominated by cacao production.