CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least one person was killed and several wounded when Guinean security forces opened fire to break up a riot in the bauxite mining hub of Boke, witnesses said on Wednesday.
Boke has suffered waves of rioting rooted in a perceived failure of mining to raise living standards, despite 15 million tonnes of aluminum ore being extracted annually by the West African nation’s largest mining companies Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB) and Companie Bauxite de Guinee (CBG).
Rioters on Wednesday pillaged a gendarmerie post and set fire to a security forces vehicle, before Guinean forces opened fire to push them back. They also blocked streets to prevent mine workers from going to work, although SMB said its basic operations were still in order.
“We feel the tension has increased somewhat,” Frederic Bouzigues, general manager of SMB, told Reuters. “Many of our employees have not been able to get back to work and this affects us even if our essential operations are not blocked.”
Guinea sits on about a third of the world’s bauxite, but it remains one of the world’s poorest countries, and unemployment around mining sites is not significantly lower than in other places. Residents of Boke protested this week over electricity shortages, another major gripe of residents.
The government said calm had now been restored, after two days of demonstrations.
“I saw one person dead at the hospital,” witness Mamadou Diallo told Reuters by telephone. “It was a young man of 25 years. I saw about twenty people wounded,” he added.
Similar riots at the end of April paralyzed Boke, and youths trashed several government buildings before being pushed back by security forces firing live rounds, also killing at least one protester.
“It was a difficult situation but we took steps to restore calm,” government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said by telephone.
Boke residents complain that while seeing none of the wealth from mining, they still suffer associated problems such as pollution from dust blowing off the back of trucks.
Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Toby Chopra