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Shares in Iamgold Corp. slid Friday after it was forced to partly suspend operations at a South American gold mine after the death of an “unauthorized” miner.

Late Thursday, the Toronto-based gold company said an artisanal miner was killed at its Rosebel concession in Suriname, after an incident between local police and a number of artisanal miners.

Iamgold said it has temporarily suspended mining at Rosebel to ensure the security of its staff.

Artisanal mining is widespread in Africa and South America, and generally involves impoverished locals mining by hand. While sometimes legal, artisanal miners often trespass on concessions controlled by international mining companies.

The incident at Rosebel also resulted in unspecified equipment damage at the site. However, the mill continues to operate, meaning Iamgold can process ore at Rosebel for the time being.

It’s unclear how long the shutdown in mining will continue and Iamgold didn’t disclose how many artisanal miners were involved in the fracas.

When reached by phone on Friday, Iamgold’s chief executive, Stephen Letwin, declined comment.

Shares in Iamgold fell by 3 per cent to close at $4.94 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Rosebel produced 290,000 ounces of gold last year, making it Iamgold’s second-biggest mine. The property has been in operation since 2004. Suriname is a former Dutch colony on the northern coast of South America. Iamgold also operates mines in Canada and West Africa.

In a regulatory disclosure earlier in the year, Iamgold flagged the risk around illegal artisanal mining at Rosebel and was critical of the government’s efforts to crack down on the practice.

“Existing legislation in Suriname is outdated with respect to the management of illegal miners and this, combined with lax enforcement of the current legislation, has a negative impact on the company’s operations,” Iamgold wrote in its annual information form in February.

“It is difficult for the company to control access to concessions due to the size of the Rosebel mine’s operations and the geographical characteristics and topography of the site.”

Iamgold is far from the only miner to experience incidents with artisanal miners.

In June, 43 artisanal miners operating illegally were killed when a section of an open-pit copper mine owned by a subsidiary of Glencore PLC collapsed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Repeated clashes with disgruntled artisanal miners in the DRC was one factor that forced Canadian miner Banro Corp. into creditor protection in 2017.

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