Russian aluminium giant says could recall personnel from Guinea if crisis worsens

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Rusal said on Monday it aimed to keep its three major bauxite mines and one alumina refinery in Guinea operating after the military coup there, but could evacuate all Russian personnel if the crisis worsened.

Moscow has a long history of relations with Conakry that goes back to trade and economic cooperation during the Soviet era, and is currently focused mainly on the metals business.

The coup in the West African nation with the world's largest bauxite reserves, used to produce aluminium, sent prices of the metal to a 10-year high on Monday. There was no immediate indication of any supply disruptions.

Rusal, the world's third largest aluminium producer, is a big presence in Guinea's key bauxite industry with its mines accounting for 42% of Rusal's total bauxite capacity.

"In connection with the events taking place in the Republic of Guinea, Rusal's number one priority is the health and safety of its employees and the continuity of its production processes," Rusal said in a statement.

"In case of further escalation, the company is considering options for the evacuation of Russian personnel from the republic," it added.

Russia-focused producer Nordgold operates the Lefa gold mine in Guinea, which accounted for 17% of Nordgold's total production in 2020.

"Nordgold remains unaffected by the current political situation in Guinea and our mine site continue to operate as normal... We are monitoring the situation closely," Nordgold said in a statement.

The Russian foreign ministry called on the Guinean military to immediately release President Alpha Conde as it joined other nations in denouncing Sunday's coup.

"Moscow opposes any attempt at unconstitutional change of leadership," the ministry said in a statement. "We demand the release of Mr Conde and a guarantee of his immunity. We consider it necessary to return the situation in Guinea to constitutional norms as soon as possible."

Guinean government officials are barred from leaving the country until further notice, and a curfew imposed in mining areas has been lifted, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the leader of an army unit which ousted Conde, said on Monday.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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