(Updates death toll, adds Gambia suspected cases)
By Saliou Samb and Stephanie Nebehay
CONAKRY/GENEVA, April 2 Foreign mining firms
have locked down operations in Guinea and pulled out some
international staff, executives said on Wednesday, as the death
toll from suspected cases of Ebola there hit 84.
The West African nation's government said four new suspected
cases of one of the world's most lethal infectious diseases had
been reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 134.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has warned
Guinea was facing an unprecedented epidemic of Ebola that would
test weak health systems across West Africa.
Suspected cases of the disease - which has a fatality rate
of up to 90 percent - have also been reported in neighbouring
Liberia and Sierra Leone, while Gambia said two people had been
quarantined after arriving from southeastern Guinea.
The epicentre of Guinea's two-month old outbreak has been in
the southeast, close to its main iron ore reserves. The country
is also the world's top exporter of bauxite, the raw material
used in aluminium production, and has rich deposits gold.
"Everyone is practising precautionary strict hygiene but
there has been no real impact on production so far," a senior
executive at a mining company told Reuters, asking not to be
The executive said he had been placed on extended leave,
while other companies were preventing people from entering or
leaving their mines.
MINERS CONCERNED ABOUT CAPITAL
Firms were more concerned by what was happening in the
densely populated capital Conakry than in remote mining sites in
the interior, where controls were easier to put in place, he
The U.N.'s World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far
reported 12 suspected cases and four deaths in the ocean-front
city of 2 million people.
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said all the cases in Conakry
were linked to one man who came from the central Guinean town of
Dobala, about 300 km (190 miles) away.
"Unfortunately, this one person infected both family members
and health care workers when he went to Conakry for medical
attention and died," Hartl told Reuters in Geneva.
Brazilian iron ore miner Vale said its VBG joint
venture with BSG Resources (BSGR) - the mining arm of Israeli
billionaire Beny Steinmetz's business conglomerate - had pulled
its six international staff out of Guinea.
"The expatriates have been transferred temporarily to their
home countries," Vale said in an emailed statement in Brazil.
"The local employees ... have been given leave from work until
there is more accurate information about the risks of the
There has not been any official statement from the chamber
of mines but the executive said mining firms had been calling
each other to discuss the best response. "People are locking
down camps and keeping movements to a minimum," the executive
Neighbouring Senegal has closed its land borders with
Guinea, and countries across the region have taken precautionary
measures, including banning the sale and consumption of bats, a
regional delicacy but an animal believed to be a vector for the
(Additional reporting by Jeb Blount in Rio de Janeiro, David
Lewis and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Writing by Daniel Flynn;
Editing by Andrew Heavens)