Violence Slams Legitimate Canadian Gold Miners in Antioquia
Toronto, Canada-based Continental Gold announced July 29 that six of its security contractors died following a suspicious explosion July 28 at an illegal mine nearby its Buritica, Antioquia gold mine.
Just three days later, fellow Toronto-based miner Gran Colombia Gold announced August 1 that it is trying to deal with a massive outbreak of violence affecting its operations in Segovia and Remedios, Antioquia.
As for the Continental mining incident, “the contractors were performing routine underground inspections of a government-closed illegal mine as ordered by the national government of Colombia in order to maintain its post-intervention strategy,” Continental explained.
“Upon entering the underground mine, the contractors were accosted by illegal miners, followed by a subsequent explosion. A seventh contractor managed to escape and immediately notified all relevant authorities.”
“It is shameful that this incident has tarnished the remarkable progress made in establishing peace in the municipality over the past 18 months,” added Continental CEO Ari Sussman. “These efforts have been fully embraced by the local community, which has publicly voiced their strong preference for the benefits of legal versus illegal activities.”
Meanwhile, Gran Colombia Gold stated that despite the outbreak of renewed violence by illegal miners near its fully licensed, legal mining operations, the company “continues to negotiate in good faith with the Mesa Minera [association of mostly illegal and artesinal miners] of Segovia and Remedios toward formalizing activities of illegal mines operating within its mining title despite the actions being taken by certain illegal miners to disrupt the company’s operations.”
“Over the last 10 days, the company has been monitoring the actions of the Mesa Minera, a local mining collective comprised in its majority by illegal miners, as they attempted to convene a civil disruption and protest in response to the increased measures being implemented by the Colombian government to restrict illegal mining.
“The company estimates that approximately 30% to 40% of its workers are currently able to attend [their mining duties]. In addition, over the weekend, an explosion damaged a pipeline owned by the company that supplies water to 1,200 residents in Remedios.”
Meanwhile, according to a news report from Medellin-based El Colombiano, more shots were fired and explosions detonated in confrontations between illegal miners and Colombia’s “Esmad” riot police on July 31.
The rioters attacked police about three kilometers outside of Segovia where they had set-up a roadblock, according to Segovia Mayor Gustavo Tobon. Six policemen suffered injuries in the attack – five hurt by home-made bombs thrown by demonstrators and a sixth hit by shotgun fire.
However, Mesa Minera president Eliober Castañeda was quoted as saying that the violence was caused by police trying to break the roadblock and by shooting tear-gas canisters at protesters.
El Colombiano also quoted Jaime Arteaga — director of the “Plan Buriticá” legal-mining promotional organization — as saying that illegal miners have often used bombs, firearms or set fire to old tires inside mines to scare-off or attempt to asfixiate security officials that monitor illegal mines in the area. Buritica Mayor Humberto Castaño added that police and mining authorites have shuttered 213 illegal mines in the area over the past 18 months.
“Plan Buriticá” is led by the Mayor of Buriticá, the departmental government of Antioquia, plus 25 civil associations, companies and international organizations. The association is partly funded by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), of which the government of Colombia is a member.