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Explosion in Colombia gold mine kills four, incapacitates 95

28 April 2014

On April 25, an explosion at a gold mine in the northwestern Colombian municipality of Buritica killed four miners and incapacitated a further 65 by toxic gas inhalation, according to Cesar Hernandez, the head of the country’s DAPARD disaster-prevention agency, the EFE news agency reported.

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The mayor of Buritica, Carlos Mario Varela Ramirez, later told local media that the number of people being cared for in hospitals and by emergency management teams had risen to 95, most of them poisoned by toxic gases. Some of the injured suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

Following the incident, the National Mining Agency ordered the suspension of mining work and the use of explosives in the immediate area.

The government of Antioquia province said the explosion took place in an area dominated by informal gold mining operations.

Canadian mining company Continental Gold, the official operator at Buritica, is continuing operations. In an interview with Bloomberg, company CEO Ari Sussman said the blast happened in an illegal mine, and the miners had likely used a homemade explosive.

Continental Gold issued the following statement on April 27:

Continental Gold Limited announces that a tragic accident in a small scale underground mine operated by artisanal miners occurred at approximately 6:00 p.m. (local time) on Friday, April 25, 2014, resulting in the death of four artisanal miners who are unrelated to Continental and its operations. This artisanal mine is located within one of the Company's concession licenses covering 58,733 hectares located north of the Veta Sur vein system. The cause of the accident is being investigated by the Colombian Government authorities.

Continental's security and rescue brigades were on hand shortly after the accident and provided support to local authorities.

In order to clarify some confusion from reports by the media, Continental wishes to confirm that the event did not impact Continental's personnel or infrastructure. Additionally, all underground development, diamond drilling and operations at the Yaraguá mine are continuing to operate normally without interruption.

"Although the vast majority of artisanal mines at Buriticá have been closed down by the Colombian Government over the past few months, the process has not yet concluded. It is unfortunate that this accident took place at one of only two main artisanal mines still operating at Buriticá. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and the Company pledges continued support to the families, government and local authorities," commented Ari Sussman, CEO. "This tragedy serves to reinforce our plans to execute sub-contracts of formalization with certain small-scale miners at Buriticá (see March 11, 2014 news release), providing them with technical and management assistance for the implementation of safety standards and procedures, and we shall redouble our efforts in this regard."


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