TORONTO — Continental Gold Inc. is mourning the deaths of workers in Colombia for the second time in two weeks after a residence that housed exploration geologists and contractors was attacked overnight.
Three Colombian workers were killed and several others were injured after the incident in the village of Ochali within the boundaries of its Berlin exploration project.
"We suspect that it's ex-FARC dissident members that operate in the area, but given that this is hours old obviously the investigation is still ongoing," chief financial officer Paul Begin said in an interview.
FARC was a guerrilla movement involved in Colombia's armed conflict until last year.
The attack comes after a Sept. 5 unrelated incident at its Buritica mine site, located more than eight hours away by road where one mining engineer was killed and another injured.
The government has made four arrests in that case, Begin said.
"There's an increased presence of military and police in and around that area so we want to praise the government for their response. It was swift and very supportive and they made some big arrests. They captured some pretty senior level organized crime guys."
That assault and an underground explosion last year are believed to be related to illegal mining.
"We're building a mine and obviously there's some people that aren't all that happy about it," he said.
Illegal mining is a massive problem around the world, particularly in Latin America. Organized crime groups make a lot of money because they can launder their money more easily than by moving drugs, Begin said.
He said the company is beefing up security in conjunction with the government and the police.
While the attacks are unlikely to have a massive impact on its operations, some of its nearly 1,000 workers in the country may choose to do something else despite the realities of working in Latin America.
"When you go into these rural areas there's risks and unfortunately we've had a string of bad luck."
Begin added that the recent attack won't have any impact on the construction of its mine but will have an impact on how it looks at future exploration activities.
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Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press