Setback for Guinea mine that threatens World Heritage chimp reserve

A major iron mining project in eastern Guinea may be at risk as its owner, the U.S. firm HPX, is reportedly running into trouble with its plans to ship ore through neighboring Liberia. HPX’s mining concession in Guinea has raised alarm among environmentalists, who say that if it reaches the production stage, its close proximity to Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve would endanger the resident chimpanzees. HPX’s mining concession is located near Liberia’s border with Guinea. The shortest route for shipping ore extracted from it would be via a railway rehabilitated by the U.K.-Indian steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal as part of the 25-year agreement it signed with the Liberian government in 2005. Since 2011, ArcelorMittal has been the line’s primary user, shipping around 5 million metric tons of ore per year from its own iron mine in northern Liberia to the port city of Buchanan. HPX and its founder, Canadian billionaire Robert Friedland, have been reportedly lobbying to block an amended contract that ArcelorMittal is fighting to push through Liberia’s legislature, which would tighten the firm’s grip on the railway. Under the revised agreement, ArcelorMittal would control day-to-day operations on the line and have the right to prevent other companies from interfering with its shipment schedule. Fearing that ArcelorMittal could disrupt its own plans, Friedland and HPX have been engaged in a multiyear campaign to convince the Liberian government to allow it to have unfettered access to the railway. A train carrying iron ore from Yekepa to the port of Buchanan in…This article was originally published on Mongabay