Police reported Tuesday that all 43 workers at the Tres Chorreras gold mine near Pucará have been accounted for. According to Azuay Police Commander Fausto Salinas, the 10 men listed as missing, and possibly killed, had escaped as the attackers entered the area, and were hiding out in the nearby forest.
Salinas said that eight or nine of those injured in the attack remain in hospitals. “Because they are in three hospitals we do not have complete information on their status and are still gathering that information. We know that injuries were the result of gunshots as well as physical assault but none are believed to be life-threatening.”
In a statement, Ryreciamining Ecuador S.A., the company that holds the concession at Tres Chorreras, said that those at the mine at the time of attack were taking samples ahead of the resumption of mining operations. “The personnel at the site were engineers, geologists and guards. We were aware of the danger posed by illegal workers in the area, so most of those present were there to provide protection,” the statement said.
The company said that a group of illegal miners, estimated to number about 20, had been taking material from the mine in recent months. “These people were removed from the area in March in a law enforcement operation but we believed they remained in the area and posed a threat. This is why many of those at the mine on Monday were guards.”
Ryreciamining said it has requested that police remain at the mine due to on-going danger. “The company holds all rights to the mine and those removing material from it are thieves. We are in touch with the Ministry of Mining about protecting our investment.”
Tres Chorreras had been in operation from 1998 to 2009 but has been closed since then.
Salinas said that the first reports of the attack were based on incomplete information. “No one died in this event and reports of deaths were the result of the men who were originally reported to be missing,” he said. “Because of the confusion and the fact that the attackers carried firearms, it was at first believed that the situation was much more extreme.”