The head of Guinea's military junta has threatened to shut down gold mines in the West African country run by AngloGold Ashanti and Crew Gold over concerns about their impact on the local environment.
Moussa Dadis Camara made the remarks during a debate about mining broadcast on state television late on Tuesday night. A representative from AngloGold and workers at Crew Gold's operations in Guinea also took part in the discussion.
We are going to set up a commission and send a team on the ground to see what's going on. But already, we want to have an overview of the mining process through to the refinery, Moussa Dadis Camara said during the debate.
We are going to totally review the situation because we can no longer work on the same basis as before. If our demands are not taken into account, we would prefer to close these gold mines and turn to other sectors, he said.
Camara has made a series of threats to mining firms with operations in the world's biggest bauxite producer, a trend analysts say is destabilising an already fraught business environment for miners due to the economic slowdown.
Days after he seized power in a December coup, Camara said the new administration would review mining deals struck by the previous government and revise any defective contracts.
He has already told both Crew Gold and AngloGold Ashanti to shut their operations before, and then reversed the decisions.
Crew Gold, a British-based miner listed in Toronto and Oslo, has mining concessions covering nearly 2,400 square km in the Lefa corridor in Guinea. The Guinean company is called Societe Miniere de Dinguiraye (SMD).
SMD workers taking part in the debate denounced the company's management methods and said the chemicals used to treat the gold were harming nearby villagers.
AngloGold Ashanti's operations are at the Siguiri mine, which produced 330,000 ounces of gold in 2008. The Guinean company is called Societe Aurifere de Guinee (SAG).
Guinea's Environment Minister Papa Koly Kourouma called for the mining firms to stop operations earlier this month due to the massive damage they were causing.
It's all out aggression against the ecosystem. They are in violation of the mining code and the environment code. They dig enormous holes here and there without taking the trouble to fill them in again, Kourouma said, adding that a fund should be set up to rehabilitate the affected areas.
Christian Rampa Luhembwe, AngloGold Ashanti's regional head for West Africa, said during the debate that the company was prepared for technicians to come and look at the operations in Guinea. (Editing by David Clarke)
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