Strike shuts down Canada-owned gold mine in Suriname

Suriname's only commercial gold mine, the Rosebel Gold Mine which is majority owned by Canada's Iamgold, has been shut down by a strike by 1,100 workers protesting new longer shift hours.

Rosebel is located some 118 kilometers south of Paramaribo (pictured), the capital of the South American nation. The mine produced 395,000 ounces in 2010 at cash cost of $484 per ounce.

While Rosebel is the country's only commercially operated mine, there are believed to be thousands of small scale miners operating in the tiny, impoverished country.

AFP reports the miners had worked a 14-day schedule with 12 working hours a day. The new schedule is 13 days of 12-hour shifts and one day of 16 hours.

Rosebel in which the government owns 5% and Iamgold the rest, is expected to produce gold until 2022.

According to anthropologist Marieke Heemskerk currently studying small-scale gold mining in Suriname, the practice is of crucial importance to the livelihoods of jungle-dwelling families in the interior with survey data from 2002 suggesting that in some villages, 70% to 80% of households obtain regular income from mining members of the household or the extended family. Small-scale mining in the country is estimated to total 20,000 kg of gold extracted by 10,000 to 20,000 miners a year.