FARC dissidents blamed for deadly attack on geologists working for Canadian mining company

By Arjun Harindranath September 20, 2018

Infrastructure photo of Buriticá site. The attack today occurred at a separate site called the “Berlin” project. Photo courtesy of Continental Gold.

A team of geologists working for Canadian mining company Continental Gold were attacked early this morning leaving three dead. The attack took place at around 2am near the company’s “Berlin” project in the village of Ochalí. The village is in the municipality of Yarumal and within the department of Antioquia.

The group of 11–ten geologists and an armed security contractor–were on an exploratory trip searching for new areas in which to mine. They were camping in tents within a remote part of the jungle when a group opened fire on them, resulting in the deaths of three of the geologists.  Three others have been injured and one other is now missing.

In an official statement, the company confirmed that Laura Flórez, Camilo Tirado y Henry Martínez were killed in the attack. All members of the expedition were Colombian nationals.

“Initial indications are that the attack was carried out by a dissident group of ex-FARC members,” Continental Gold wrote on the company website. “The Company is fully cooperating with authorities and is working with the families affected.”

The Deputy Minister of Mines in Colombia Carolina Rojas-Hayes expressed her sympathies for the families of the geologists and stated on her twitter account that “these attacks against the mining sector are against the entire country.”

A source working for Continental Gold told The Bogotá Post that the workers now feel unsafe as a result of the attack, particularly when travelling to the mines as they are vulnerable to further attacks. According to this source–who preferred to remain unnamed–the attack was a result of a FARC dissident group financing its activities from illegal gold mining; a source of income that would be threatened if legal companies move in on their territory.

In addition to the “Berlin project”, Continental Gold has another project in the same department eight hours away that the company promises will be “one of the largest and highest-grade gold projects in the world”. This site too was attacked earlier this month leaving one worker dead and another injured. That attack was carried out by the Gulf Clan, one of Colombia’s largest criminal organisations.

Since the landmark peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC, incidents of this kind have reduced dramatically though some dissident groups that disagreed with the agreement remain as rebel insurgencies. As a result, dangers remain for corporations, journalists and scientists that have newly begun to explore selected territories that had previously been too dangerous to travel to.

In March of this year, three press workers of an Ecuadorean newspaper were killed by a group called the Oliver Sinisterra–an offshoot of the FARC that operates along the Colombia/Ecuador border–the leader of which is now being closed in on by Colombian security forces after having been shot at earlier this week.