The Upper Guinea forest ecosystem, which includes portions of the West African country of Guinea, once covered an estimated 420,000 square kilometers. And due to centuries of human activity, which have resulted in the loss of nearly 70 percent of the original forest cover, the remaining Upper Guinea forest is restricted to a number of isolated patches that are refuges for the region’s unique species, including the chimpanzee and pygmy hippopotamus.
Guinea also has one of the world’s largest bauxite reserves – a key ingredient in the manufacturing of aluminum – as well as being one of the largest producers, after Australia. Bauxite operations represent a major economic activity for the country and its people. With many global mining companies operating in Guinea, large-scale projects risk being developed without proper attention paid to the environment, leading to important species and habitats being unnecessarily threatened or lost. In addition to environmental harm, mistakes can lead to a damaged reputation for a company both at the local and global level, and in some cases may mean losing their license to operate in a given region.
Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum, and alumina, currently sources bauxite ore from the Sangaredi/Boke region in Guinea. In conjunction with the bauxite mining operations, Alcoa, in partnership with the aluminum manufacturer Alcan, is looking to build an alumina refinery in the Boké region of Guinea to prevent the need for shipping raw bauxite to refineries in other parts of the world. While the refinery also is expected to have a positive economic impact for the local population, Alcoa is seeking to better understand its environmental impacts in the region.
Alcoa has entered into an agreement with CI to implement an important conservation tool known at Initial Biodiversity Assessment and Planning (IBAP). Through this science-based approach, CI, in close coordination with local partner Guinée Ecologie, will assess the region’s biodiversity as well as the existing and potential socio-economic threats to and opportunities for conservation in northwest Guinea. This partnership was formed in the spirit of providing significant gains for biodiversity conservation, the communities that rely on resources within the region, and the government of Guinea.
Biodiversity Action Plan Workshop Convened: CI, in partnership with the local environmental group Guinée Ecologie, co-hosting a two-day multi-stakeholder workshop in collaboration with international aluminum producers Alcoa and Alcan to form an action plan for conserving biodiversity in the Boké prefecture of Guinea. The Deputy Ministers of Environment and Mines and Geology addressed the workshop, which also included presentations on the importance of biodiversity in the region, its socio-economic situation, and existing conservation initiatives underway in the area. Findings from the RAP survey and feedback from the workshop will be used to formulate a biodiversity action plan for Boké prefecture. Read Further
Rapid Biological Assessment (RAP) Completed: A terrestrial biological survey, conducted through CI’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) and in partnership with Guinée Ecologie, was completed in March 2005. The RAP team, including both local and international scientists, which spent 15 days examining the flora and fauna of several sites within Northwest Guinea. These findings will be used to write a complete biological assessment of the area as well as make key recommendations, which Alcoa and Alcan will use as part of there decision making process for siting the refinery. In addition, the RAP team provided scientific training to local scientists.
IBAP Process Started: In the fourth quarter of 2004, the first two stages of the IBAP process were started and key findings are being gathered, including an initial biodiversity screening study of the area. Concurrently, a consultant hired by Alcoa has been conducting another key element of the IBAP process through their Sustainability Assessment, looking at the socio-economic context of the region and how its operations will impact the surrounding communities.