CONAKRY, June 20 (Reuters) - Sanctions-hit Russian aluminium producer Rusal restarted production at its Friguia alumina refinery in Guinea on Wednesday after a six-year pause, the West African country’s mines minister told Reuters.
Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer outside China, has been hit by U.S. sanctions that analysts had said could delay the restart of the Friguia refinery.
But one day after Rusal said it had started shipping bauxite from its Dian-Dian bauxite project in Guinea to its alumina refineries in other countries, Friguia was officially reopened.
“The recovery of the Friguia plant will be gradual in two phases. The first phase aims to reach a capacity between 550,000 and 600,000 tonnes,” Abdoulaye Magassouba, Minister of Mines and Geology, told Reuters.
The second phase, which will begin in 2024, will boost capacity to 1.05 million tonnes per year by 2026, he said. Feasibility studies for the extension will begin in 2019.
Rusal was not immediately available for comment on the restart. It was not clear how U.S. sanctions would affect exports from the refinery which closed in 2012 after a workers’ strike.
Guinea is vital for Rusal as the country accounts for 27 percent of the company’s production of bauxite, the ore that is refined into alumina and ultimately smelted into aluminium. (Reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Sandra Maler)