MAC: Mines and Communities

Guinea: Rio rail line will displace 10,000

Published by MAC on 2013-10-26
Source: The Australian (2013-10-18)

Rio rail line will displace 10,000

The Australian

18 October 2013

Rio Tinto's $US20 billion ($20.8bn) Simandou iron ore pbroject in Guinea will see more than 10,000 people relocated to make way for a railway to move the raw material to the coast, raising potential issues over who will be responsible for their wellbeing.

The extent of the relocations were revealed yesterday by Rio's iron ore counsel Philip Edmands in a talk to a resources and energy law association conference.

"We need to move in excess of 10,000 people and there is a patchwork quilt of titles that have to be acquired," Mr Edmands told the AMPLA conference in Adelaide yesterday.

The complex, 670km multi-user railway to take iron ore from the Simandou concessions, which Rio hopes it will start building in 2018, will include two viaducts, 24km of tunnels and 29 bridges, and is expected to help open up the heavily populated hinterland.

The number of displaced people is larger than many were expecting, given the project's latest social and environmental impact statement says 15 settlements, with a total of just "270 structures", would need to be physically moved to make way for the railway.

The statement said the rail corridor would occupy 8000 hectares of land and was expected to disrupt the livelihoods of a further number of households, resulting in more economic displacement.

Mr Edmands said such a large relocation needed to be done with care. He highlighted a May Human Rights Watch report on people moved from a river area in Mozambique to make way for coalmining.

Despite being given better-quality housing, they could not fish any more, meaning their whole way of life was altered and they were relying on food support.

"The issue is the extent to which the companies involved have an obligation to provide food support . . . and how you deal with the difficult situation," Mr Edmands said.

"It indicates one of the areas where, firstly, you have to be clear of the obligations of state and investor and also the great care that has to be exercised in operations like this."

The positive impacts of Simandou, which will be Africa's biggest mining project if it goes ahead, will be a doubling of both Guinea's gross domestic product and government income.

Tens of thousands of jobs are expected to be created by construction, with 4500 full-time positions when the project is operational.

In a recent agreement between the Simandou partners, which include Chinese-controlled Chalco, Baosteel, China Railway Construction and China Harbour Engineering, and the Guinea government, it was determined the government would not be required to fund 51 per cent of the railway and port.

The job of funding and building the infrastructure is likely to go to a Chinese company.

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