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By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, May 14 (Reuters) - Guinea’s Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB) has completely shut down bauxite production at its mine for the past 10 days owing to a staff walkout, its director general said on Monday.
Frederic Bouzigues told Reuters by telephone that the company had already lost between one million to 1.2 million tonnes of scheduled bauxite production because of the strike, with losses running to $1 million a day.
SMB is owned by Guinea, China’s Winning Shipping Ltd, Shandong Weiqiao and UMS International Ltd.
Guinea’s volatile western town of Boke frequently suffers strikes and protests from a local population that feels largely excluded from its vast mineral wealth — including both mining employees and those who failed to find work in its mines.
“All our activities are blocked because of a decision to stop work that some of our employees have taken to stop work, after the arrest of a union leader by the authorities,” Bouzigues said.
Aboubacar Sidiki Mara, a union leader, was arrested by police in the capital Conakry at the start of the month, triggering unrest.
Opposition supporters in Guinea staged protests and erected barricades in Boke and the town of Kamsar in March, disrupting some bauxite shipments.
Similar protests paralysed Boke and disturbed output in September and April last year.
The poor West African nation contains one of the world’s richest iron ore and bauxite deposits, and has proven reserves of gold and diamonds, but despite decades of mining it has stayed near the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index. Boke’s other major Bauxite miner is Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG), 49 percent owned by the Guinean state and the remainder by Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan and Dadco.
Reporting by Saliou Samb Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Edmund Blair