Policymakers in Canberra are no doubt looking up where Guinea is on a map, after learning of potential threats to Australia’s $65 billion of iron ore export business to China.
Australian ties with China have worsened considerably in recent months over calls for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19, the deployment of the Australian navy to the South China Sea, human rights in Hong Kong, and accusations of Chinese political interference in Australia.
China responded by banning some Australian beef products and issued a travel warning for tourists and students due to reported anti-Chinese racism.
As diplomatic ties erode further, some are beginning to worry that Australia’s hugely important iron ore export business could be next on China’s chopping block, in part because a large new mine is coming online in Guinea that could replace at least some of what the Chinese currently buy from Australia.
But here’s the catch: the Simandou mine, which opened this year, is a joint venture between the Chinese state-owned mining giant Chinalco and none other than the Australian mining company Rio Tinto.
When fully operational, the mine is expected to produce around 100 million tons of some of the world’s highest quality iron ore.
So, the irony here is that an Australian company may end up playing a role in breaking China’s dependence on Australian iron ore.
- The Lowy Institute: China eyes African prospects to iron out trade tension with Australia by Cornelia Tremann
- The Australian Financial Review: Rio Tinto studies Simandou joint venture by Peter Ker
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