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First Quantum suspends work at Mauritania copper, gold mine

First Quantum Minerals Chairman, CEO and Director Philip Pascall speaks during their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, May 9, 2012.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

First Quantum Minerals has suspended operations at the Guelb Moghrein copper and gold mine in Mauritania, where days of worker protests over pay left one person dead over the weekend.

"First Quantum Minerals today announced that it has temporarily suspended normal operations at its Guelb Moghrein copper-gold mine in Mauritania due to illegal strike action by some unionized employees," the company said on Tuesday.

According to local reports, demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the Guelb Moghrein mine over the weekend as workers demanded better pay and conditions. One worker died in the clashes, although further details about the circumstances were muddied amid differing reports.

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"The company continues to work through a government-facilitated mediation process to achieve a resolution to the illegal strike and will update stakeholders as warranted," First Quantum said in a statement.

It was not clear what the impact might be on production at the mine, which accounts for about 7.5 per cent of the company's net asset value and 12 per cent of earnings, according to a report by the Bank of Montreal.

The Guelb Moghrein mine produces about 35,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate per year and is one of Vancouver-based First Quantum's three operating mines. It also operates the Kansanshi copper-gold mine in Zambia and the Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Australia.

At some 265,000 tonnes of copper production per year from the flagship Kansanshi mine, First Quantum is a mid-tier copper producer and one of Canada's leading copper miners. It is also an emerging nickel producer.

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