(Reuters) – Guinea is holding a presidential election on Sunday which could emerge as the first truly free vote in the West African country’s troubled history since 1958 independence from France.
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Following are some key details about Guinea:
* ECONOMY: Guinea is the world’s top exporter of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminium and relies on minerals for over 70 percent of exports.
– Guinea boasts around a third of all known reserves of bauxite. CBG (Alcoa and Rio Tinto’s Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee), the world’s biggest bauxite exporter, shipped a record 13.7 million tonnes in 241 shiploads during 2008.
– Guinea saw two huge iron ore deals this year: a $2.5 billion deal between the world’s top iron ore miner Vale (VALE5.SA) and BSG Resources, and a $2.9 billion deal between global No. 2 iron ore miner Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) and Chinese metals group Chinalco.
– Guinea also has gold, diamonds, uranium and other minerals. Guinea’s diamond reserves are estimated at over 25 million carats, not including as yet unmapped kimberlite fields.
– Guinea’s economic progress remains mostly driven by growth in mining, construction, and public works and services. While mining firms already working in Guinea continued doing so, the government said the political situation was at least partially responsible for a downturn in mineral exports in 2009.
– Guinea was recently named by watchdog Transparency International in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions index as ranking 168, jointly with Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Burundi and Haiti out of 180 countries listed.
For a factbox on major mining operations in Guinea, click on: [ID:nLDE64A1TR]
* COUNTRY DETAILS:
POPULATION: 10.1 million.
ETHNICITY: There are 16 ethnic groups in Guinea, the most numerous being the Peul, Malinke, and Sussu. RELIGION: About 65 percent Muslim. Traditional African religions 33 percent. There is also a small Christian minority.
LANGUAGE: The official language is French but Malinke and Sussu are also widely spoken.
GEOGRAPHY: Area is 245,720 sq km (94,870 sq mile). The former French colony lies on West Africa’s Atlantic coast. It shares borders with Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Mali.
Sources: Reuters/Global Insight/CIA/IMF/Alertnet
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/ ) (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;)