October 12, 2017 / 10:48 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Protests halt Pan African Resources gold project in South Africa

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JOHANNESBURG, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Construction of Pan African Resources 1.7 billion rand ($126 million) project in South Africa to produce gold from mine dumps has been halted the past two days because of protests and assaults on its workers, its CEO said on Thursday.

Such protests are a common feature on South Africa’s platinum belt, where deals with tribal authorities have triggered community resentment, but the gold sector has generally escaped such disruptions.

Cobus Loots told Reuters that a community group demanding jobs and business opportunities was behind the protests and the company hoped to restart construction at the project, which aims to begin producing gold in the second half of 2018, as soon as possible.

“It’s a pit that a small group of people with their own agendas are disrupting, a project which is so beneficial for the whole area,” Loots said.

The protests are taking place around the Elikhulu project in Evander, 100 kms (60 miles) southeast of Mpumalanga province.

Loots said the group’s demands included the provision of procurement opportunities for local entrepreneurs but he said the company was “already doing that.”

He said the community group behind the protests was called Sivukile, which is a signatory to the agreement and part of the steering committee on the project. Its leaders could not be reached for comment.

South Africa has an unemployment rate of above 25 percent its economy is still defined by glaring income disparities and widespread poverty over two decades after the end of apartheid, providing fertile ground for social unrest.

$1 = 13.4877 rand Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg and Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia

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