Sierra Leone Suspends Mining at Koidu After Two Deaths

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RAPAPORT… Sierra Leone’s biggest diamond mine suspended operations on Friday after two people were killed and several wounded in riots in the eastern mining town of Koidu.

The country’s newly appointed President Ernest Bai Koroma ordered the temporary halt to operations in an effort to calm tensions in the country, Reuters reported.

Police used tear gas and live bullets to disperse more than 400 protesters who looted equipment and destroyed a generator at the Koidu Holdings’ concession late last week, the report said.

“Two people are dead and eight injured,” police chief superintendant Joseph Kabia in Koidu told Reuters. “The commander told us they had shotguns, so we had to use armed police. They heard continuous gun shots so there was no alternative. They fired into the air.”

Some 1,000 illicit miners have raided the Koidu concession since Sierra Leone’s September general election in the hope of finding diamonds. Reuters said that police removed the miners on December 12 after Koidu agreed they could keep any diamonds from the gravel they had collected.

The mine is owned by Benny Steinmetz. It remained unclear how the two were killed.

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