Protesters sit outside a tent near the entrance of the phosphate mine in Umm al-arais, Tunisia February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir
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Young men block the entrance of a Tunisian phosphate mine, halting exports as they demand jobs in a conflict that is exacerbating an economic crisis in the North African country. Hundreds have occupied the mines of state-run Gafsa Phosphate (CPG), the main employer in the country's poor southern region, depriving Tunisia of badly needed hard currency and drawing a warning from a local MP that continued protests would hit the company. The conflict symbolizes the struggle the government faces as it tries to cut a public wage bill that is among the world's highest at almost 15 percent of GDP, and its deficit as agreed with foreign donors, all while trying to tame dissent. Protests broke out across the country in January, with many angry at being worse off than before a 2011 uprising toppled autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. While there have been protests before, this is the first time all mines are shut.Once one of the world's largest phosphate makers, Tunisia's production has halved since 2010 because of repeated protests and a fall in foreign buyers.
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