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RE : RE: [Gabon Discussion] China and Gabon

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  • Brad Hodges
    I recall seeing groups of Chinese workers when I used to pass in front of the new Senate during its construction. I also remember when the Chinese president
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 26, 2007
      I recall seeing groups of Chinese workers when I used to pass in front of the new Senate during its construction. I also remember when the Chinese president visited Libreville a couple of years ago. Huge signs of him with Bongo adorned the Bord de mer from the airport all the way to downtown.

      Many interesting articles about Chinese involvement in Gabon can be found here (in French):

      http://forum.hkcinemagic.com/index.php?act=Print&client=printer&f=27&t=4241

      - Brad Hodges



      Darcy Meijer <darcy.meijer@...> a écrit : Hi Bob,

      Big news! What do you think the pygmies think about this?

      -----Original Message-----
      From: gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com on behalf of bobutne
      Sent: Sun 2/25/2007 8:18 PM
      To: gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [Gabon Discussion] China and Gabon


      BELINGA, Gabon, Feb 26 (Reuters) By Antoine Lawson - The pygmies of
      Gabon's lush northeast equatorial forests may soon be learning
      Chinese.

      Buried deep in thick jungle in the least populated corner of the oil-
      producing central African state is one of the world's biggest
      untapped reserves of iron ore, waiting to be developed. But the
      country selected by Gabon to help exploit the huge Belinga iron ore
      deposit is not former colonial ruler France, or any other resource-
      gobbling Western industrial power.

      The chosen partner is China, the newest and hungriest raw materials
      raider on the African continent. The Belinga deal in Gabon is only
      the latest of a string of multi-billion-dollar energy and commodities
      contracts secured by the Asian economic giant to feed its ravenous
      economy. China is the world's top steel producer and biggest importer
      of iron ore.

      After years of stagnation and neglect, people in and around the
      isolated Gabonese village of Belinga, surrounded by virgin forest,
      are agog with expectation about the arrival of the Chinese and how
      this can improve their lives.

      Although the consortium chosen to develop the mine, led by state-
      owned China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corp., is
      only just starting its work on the ground, locals are expecting a
      windfall in jobs and other economic benefits.

      "All of the people's hopes are riding on the exploitation of the
      Belinga iron ore deposit ... the people are waiting for the work to
      get going," said Andre Nkoghe Ella, mayor of Makokou, the regional
      capital, around 110 km (68 miles) from Belinga.

      The Chinese group plans to begin work this year and complete the
      project in three years. The Belinga deposit is reported to have
      proven iron ore reserves of more than 500 million tonnes.

      The $3 billion total investment -- about the level of Gabon's annual
      budget -- foresees construction of a 560 km (350 mile) railway to
      carry the ore to Cape Santa Clara on the Atlantic coast, a bulk
      commodities and container port there and two hydroelectric power
      stations. At the moment, the journey from Makokou to Belinga is
      either a muddy drive through hills on a dirt road or a more leisurely
      motor canoe trip up the Ivindo river, between banks choked with
      tropical foliage and teeming with game.

      Local inhabitants, including pygmies living in neighbouring forests,
      eke out a meagre living by hunting, fishing or cultivating crops.

      "There's everything to be done in this almost forgotten area --
      roads, electricity and even running water," says boatman Firmin
      Tcheka, 41.

      It was the Chinese group's promises to tackle all of the basic
      infrastructure required to make the project work that won them the
      Belinga contract in the face of tough competition.

      Brazilian mining giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD)
      <VALE5.SA><RIO.N> and French nickel firm Eramet <ERMT.PA> had
      originally been part of the consortium eyeing Belinga. But they
      pulled out because they were unwilling to bear the cost of building
      the accompanying infrastructure in such a remote, undeveloped
      location more than 500 km (300 miles) east of Gabon's capital,
      Libreville.

      The Chinese consortium picked for Belinga includes state-owned Export-
      Import Bank of China, which like its U.S. European and Japanese
      counterparts, helps finance its country's firms overseas.

      Many African governments like the no-strings-attached approach of the
      Chinese, who offer aid or loans not linked to demands for good
      governance, transparency or improvements in human rights -- the
      Western recipe for development packages.

      "When the Chinese come they can provide financing, without a lot of
      strings or moralising," said a Gabonese government adviser when he
      accompanied President Omar Bongo on a visit to Beijing in
      November. "They say, 'the Europeans will come with a lot of
      conditions, but we won't interfere'. That's very attractive to
      governments here," the adviser added.

      Underpinning the Belinga project are more than three decades of
      cordial ties between Bongo, Africa's longest serving ruler, and
      China. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974 and
      Bongo has visited China at least 10 times. Chinese companies have
      constructed roads and public buildings in Gabon and are also mining
      manganese and exploring for oil and gas. Bongo hails the Belinga iron
      ore venture as "the project of the century" and has made clear he
      expects it to create thousands of jobs for his people.

      Sensitive to suggestions that China might import its own technicians
      and skilled labourers to carry out the project, China's ambassador to
      Gabon, Xue Jinwei, says there should be more than enough jobs to go
      round -- perhaps 20,000 or more.

      "We're talking about a big project that includes the construction of
      a port, a railway, dams and the exploitation of the mine itself.
      That's a big job that is going to need a lot of people," the
      ambassador said.

      In anticipation of finding work, miners who once worked at a now
      closed uranium mine at Mounana in the southeast of the country have
      traveled north to Belinga.

      Once in operation, the Belinga mine will sell all its iron ore to
      Chinese steel mills. China's hunger for iron ore has grown as its
      industry churns out steel for the ships that carry its exports, for
      the cars that crowd its roads, and the skyscrapers that crown its
      teeming cities.

      But in the hamlets and villages around Belinga, the expectations are
      more modest.

      "I hope that the Chinese can build a nice school, a library with lots
      of books," said Nicolas Essone, aged 8, one of several barefoot
      children studying at Belinga's mud-hut school.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      In the early 60's, Bethlehem Steel contemplated developing the iron
      ore mountain at Belinga. Now, as expected by me since my return to
      Gabon in 2002, the Chinese have assumed the mantle as the number one
      foreign entity in Gabon. The US isn't even on the radar screen.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]






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    • bobutne
      The forest people have largely left the interior bush to follow the timber companies or moved to be around the towns that dot Gabon s major roads. I doubt if
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 26, 2007
        The forest people have largely left the interior bush to follow the
        timber companies or moved to be around the towns that dot Gabon's major
        roads. I doubt if they could care less about the Chinese economic
        intrusions other than more roads opened offering easier access to their
        game for outsider poachers.

        We Americans killed off the buffalos and did our damnest to wipe out
        Native Americans. Gabon will experience the same. The forest people
        will disappear along with their game. Greed, a rapidly growing human
        population and a vengeful Mother Nature will combine to make that a
        certainty, I fret.
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