An explosion at an illegal gold mine in central Colombia has killed six security contractors who were working for Continental Gold.
The explosion occurred during underground inspections of a government-closed illegal mine when seven contractors were confronted by miners allegedly operating there illegally. One contractor survived and escaped to alert authorities.
According to the company, the inspections are a routine exercise carried out based on the orders of National Government of Colombia. Launched in 2016, the intervention measures taken by the government are aimed at permanently putting an end to illegal mining operations.
The site is located away from the company’s current operations at the Buriticá project in Antioquia province. The possible cause of deaths is understood to have been by asphyxiation.
Continental Gold president Mateo Restrepo Villegas said: "We stand steadfast against illegal mining and will remain vigilant in our efforts to support Colombia in addressing and resolving this problem.
“We remain committed to working with the Colombian Government to eradicate illegal mining in the region to provide the harmony that the company, communities and all stakeholders deserve.”
Rescue operations were coordinated by the National Mining Agency of Colombia (ANM) in partnership with the government´s disaster recovery agency, DAPARD, and Continental.
The company said it will continue to cooperate with the government to intensify efforts in a bid to ensure security and legality in the region.
The cause of the explosion has not been revealed, and it has not been reported if any of the alleged illegal miners also died from the blast.