* Gold reserves fell to unsustainable levels
* Discovery of a large copper deposit
* The company in talks to lay off 300 miners
By Aziz El Yaakoubi
RABAT, May 13 Morocco's biggest miner Managem
has ended gold extraction in the southern Akka gold
mines after reserves fell to non-viable levels, leading to the
loss of around 300 jobs from its own staff and contractors, it
said on Wednesday.
General manager Ismail Akalay said the company would
increasingly focus on copper, following the discovery two years
ago of a copper deposit of around 1.15 million tonnes in the
same area, increasing total copper reserves to 8 million tonnes.
"In Akka's gold mines, we have around 800 workers and we
have succeeded to transfer 500 to other locations," Akalay said.
"Now we are in talks with our 100 workers for severance
payments, as the deal with the 200 interim contractors has been
already signed between their company and unions," he added.
Abdellah Rahmoune from the CDT trade union said talks were
"We are still negotiating. We didn't give our approval yet
as we want to be sure that the workers feel really confident
with the deal," said Rahmoune, who took part in the talks with
the company and local authorities.
Managem, which is controlled by the Moroccan royal family's
holding company SNI, produces gold, silver, cobalt and copper in
Morocco and Gabon and recently won contracts to explore for gold
in two mineral-rich areas of Sudan.
Gold production from Managem's Akka Gold Mining subsidiary,
located 280 kilometers southwest of the southern city of Agadir,
fell by 23 percent in 2012 to 532 kilograms from a year earlier,
while copper output reached 23,371 tonnes or a 2.5 percent
increase in the same period, according to company data.
Managem has faced criticism by villagers from Imider in the
Atlas mountains, where another subsidiary Imiter Mettalurgic Co
operates, accusing it of depleting water levels,
creating pollution and doing too little to improve living
conditions in the area.
Managem posted a 49 percent rise in 2013 net profit
attributable to shareholders to 405 million dirhams ($50
($1 = 8.1535 Moroccan Dirhams)
(Editing by Mark Potter)