The $1.4 billion first phase of the bauxite project in the Boké region of Guinea is already one of the biggest mining developments in Sub-Saharan Africa and could yet grow even larger in size and value.
The sponsor – UAE-based aluminium giant Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) – put up a sizeable equity slice through its project company Guinea Alumina Corporation (GAC) to kick-start construction over a year and half before the eventual financial close date.
Five DFIs led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) provided the majority of the debt package, with seven commercial banks making up the difference. The IFC substantially increased its own contribution since first committing to the project.
Financial close was achieved for what will be only the first phase of a wider development – starting with the mine and the associated infrastructure to enable export.
The EGA in Guinea
Venture capital fund Hericles Capital claimed to be seeking funding for a $2.5 billion bauxite and alumina refining project in Boké as early as January 2003, as reported by IJGlobal at the time.
The project was set to be owned by Guinea Aluminium Production Company (GAPCO). However five years later the shareholders pulled out due to political instability emanating from the 2008 Guinean coup d'état.
Another five years later the government of Guinea signed with EGA a 25-year concession contract for the mine and refinery combination at Boké on 24 November 2013. At this point the Emirati company was operating in the West African state through its local subsidiary GAC, which put forward a two-phase plan, the second of which being the on-site refinery. The National Assembly of Guinea later approved GAC’s plan in June 2014.
At the time of the 2013 contract signing the overall foreign investment expected in the multi-phase project amounted to $5 billion, which included the following works in the first phase:
- construction of a bauxite mine, producing 12 million tonnes a year (mtpa)
- upgrade of the Kamsar port at the mouth of Nunez River, located 136km away from the mine
- upgrade and expansion railway lines between the mine and the port, including 27.7km of new lines
The role of the port at Kamsar is vital for the export of Boké’s production as Guinea’s main port is otherwise located 265km away at the capital city of Conakry. Works at Kamsar are partially complete with a 2.7km marine trestle to transport bauxite from the port railhead to awaiting barges and GAC already making use of the multi-purpose container quay.
The varied infrastructural elements of the vast project are of particular interest to the multilaterals that lent signficantly on the debt package, a source told IJGlobal – the rail and port must be multipurpose in hopes of creating a trade corridor in the region and open up the port facility to a diversified market of regional and international traffic.
State-owned EGA raised $6.5 billion in debt from regional and international lenders to refinance its capital structure in January 2019. The company is owned by two further state-owned enterprises:
- Mubadala – 50%
- Investment Corporation of Dubai – 50%
EGA went into the project heavy on the equity side – $650 million – leaving a debt requirement of $750 million. This would cover just 54% of the total project finance, and the up-front capital from GAC enabled the sponsors to begin construction in Q4 2017.
A $660 million tranche featured the following DFIs on a 14-year tenor:
- IFC – $330 million
- African Development Bank – $100 million
- Export Development Canada – $150 million
- Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) – $40 million
- DEG – $40 million
The project is the first ever deal in Guinea by PIDG-member EAIF.
The IFC played a leading role in the financing and had originally approved on 14 December 2017 a $150 million contribution to the debt. By the time the debt was signed on 29 March (2019) the World Bank Group member’s total had risen to $330 million.
The IFC provided GAC with technical assistance through its advisory service. The World Bank Group member also arranged a further $90 million in B-loans from commercial banks. This tranche involved the following participants on a 12-year tenor:
- BNP Paribas
- Emirates NBD
- First Abu Dhabi Bank
- Mashreq Bank
- Société Général
MIGA has also provided political risk insurance cover of up to $129 million. Sources told IJGlobal that financial close took place on 26 April (2019).
The construction works are being carried out by French company Bouygues Construction.
The second phase
EGA is anticipating an even greater build out of Guinea’s bauxite mining sector. The products from the Boké mine itself are to be sent to a refinery to be processed into alumina which is the feedstock for aluminium smelters.
EGA operates two aluminium/alumina facilities in the UAE:
- Taweelah alumina refinery – 2mtpa of alumina
- Jebel Ali aluminium smelter – 1mtpa of aluminium
The Jebel Ali site features two dedicated berths for the import of resources by sea as well as through its own operations, while Taweelah receives its feedstock from Guinea’s bauxite sector. The $7 billion Taweelah reached financial close on 12 December 2007.
EGA is planning a new alumina refinery at the mine in Guinea, representing the next phase of development at Boké.
Sources close to deal are unsure as to when the refinery component will kick off development, indicating it is in early stages, but is likely to required significant additional funding given the costs of the Taweelah refinery.
Construction at the mine is already well underway and the site is expected to begin production during the course of H2 2019.
The sponsor was advised by:
- Société Générale – financial
- Shearman & Sterling – legal
The lenders were advised by:
- ING – financial
- Allen & Overy – legal
- BAO & Fils – local legal
- Marsh JLT – insurance
The government was advised by:
- DLA Piper – legal
- Sylla & Partners – local legal