Mauritania gold miners on strike

2016-05-24 18:29
Rural Mauritania. (iStock)

Rural Mauritania. (iStock)

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Nouakchott - Mauritanian miners on Tuesday began an open-ended strike at a Canadian-owned gold mine over pay conditions, with unions citing the vast gap between their salaries and expats working for miner Kinross.

"We began a strike at midnight, which is being followed by almost everyone," workers' spokesperson Bounenna Ould Sidi told AFP from the Tasiast mine in the country's north.

"The management is trying to start up again with expatriates and incompetent day labourers, which we oppose," Ould Sidi added.

The spokespeson said cuts to benefits including medical cover, tax cover and bonuses had been instigated without consulting workers.

Mohamed Abdallahi Nehah, secretary general of the CGTM coalition of trade unions in Mauritania, said the pay gap between Mauritanians and much better paid foreigners was behind the tensions.

"There are 2 600 Mauritanian workers employed by the firm of whom 1 041 are permanent, costing the company $36 million, while there are 130 expatriate employees who cost $43 million," said Nehah.

"It is not normal to take it out on Mauritanians, many hundreds of whom have been fired these last two years in cost-cutting measures," he added.

Kinross said it was taking the "legal and necessary measures to alleviate the impact of the strike," in a statement published on Tuesday.

It accused workers of failing to re-open discussions it had suggested for Monday, and called for workers to leave strike-breakers alone.

In a separate statement on its website, Kinross said the company "does not expect the strike to affect development" of the mine's expansion.

Kinross has previously declared it wanted to increase production at the site by half while reducing costs by half per ounce produced.

The open pit operation produced 219 045 ounces of gold equivalent in 2015, according to the company's website.

The mine was once the world's third largest but production has suffered from the falling price of gold.

Strikes have previously hit the mine in 2013 and 2011, also over pay conditions.

Read more on:    mauritania  |  canada  |  mining

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