April 20, 2012 / 8:44 AM / 6 years ago

African Minerals workers riot in Sierra Leone

BUMBUNA, Sierra Leone (Reuters) - Two days of rioting over pay by workers from African Minerals’ Sierra Leone mine have left one woman dead and at least six injured, witnesses and medical staff said.

The company said operations had seen “no significant impact”.

“The government authorities are treating the protest as a matter of civil disobedience,” a company spokesman said of the unrest which took place in the central town of Bumbuna, 15 km (10 miles) from African Minerals’ Tonkolili mine.

The rioting began on Tuesday and went through into Wednesday. The mood calmed down by Thursday, although local people said African Minerals staff had not returned to work.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) there were shots all over the place,” Nancy Turay, a 62-year old Bumbuna resident said.

African Minerals’ shares traded fractionally lower at 566 pence in early London dealings.

African Minerals made its first trial shipment of ore from Tonkolili mine in November last year. Shipments from the mine are due to help Sierra Leone to what the IMF estimates at 35.9 percent growth this year, one of the highest rates in the world.

The rioting began with a protest over pay and conditions, with locals aggrieved by what they said were the higher wages received by expatriates.

“Some of the expats are really idle,” Foday Daboh, a construction worker for African Minerals and one of the protest’s organisers, told Reuters.

While police confirmed one death, local Superintendent Alfred Dassama denied his men had used excessive force.

“We tried to engage them with tear gas, but the situation became uncontrollable,” he said.

Sierra Leone, which will hold presidential elections in November, recently stirred controversy with the purchase of $4.5 million of weaponry for its police force, including heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.

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