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Semafo halts Guinea gold plant, evacuates expats

(Audio available further in this article)

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Canada-based gold miner Semafo said on Monday it had halted operations at its Kiniero gold-processing plant in Guinea and evacuated its expatriate workers after violent protests by locals over jobs.

"All operations at the plant have stopped for the moment, there is nobody on site," Semafo spokesman Haphy Fofana said. "The dozen expatriates working for Semafo spent last night in Kankan before being evacuated to Bamako (Mali)."

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He said that locals seeking jobs at the Kiniero gold mine, about 500 km (300 miles) from the capital Conakry, had protested for three days and then attacked the homes of foreign workers, damaging the buildings.

"This caused a panic," he said.

A senior official at the West African state's Mines Ministry said a government delegation had been sent to Kiniero to help resolve the problem.

Quebec-based Semafo produces some 20,000 ounces of gold from the Kiniero mine each year. Semafo also operates gold mines in Burkina Faso and Niger. Guinea accounts for only a small portion of Semafo's annual gold output, which topped 260,000 ounces in 2010.

"At this time, we do not (have) knowledge of when (Guinea) operations will come back in full force," said Sofia St. Laurent, a spokeswoman for the company in Quebec.

"Management remains confident that we will be able to meet our annual production guidance," she said.

Semafo shares were down nearly 3 percent at C$9.53 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

Guinea is the world's top exporter of the aluminum ore bauxite, but is also seeking to boost investment in its iron ore and gold reserves.

By Saliou Samb.

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