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Mining Company Blamed ‘Bandits or Terrorists’ for Prior Attacks

A Canadian mining company that employed workers who were fatally ambushed Wednesday in the West African nation of Burkina Faso offered no explanation on Thursday for the attack or the possible motives of the killers.

But in a securities filing made this week in Canada, the Montreal-based company, Semafo, characterized two attacks on its workers in Burkina Faso last year “as part of an increase in similar incidents carried out by bandits or terrorists.”

The company added that “there is no reason to believe that our employees or operations are targeted.”

At least thirty-seven people died in the Wednesday attack, one of the deadliest episodes of violence that has convulsed the landlocked nation. It took place when five buses escorted by Burkina Faso’s military were traveling to Semafo’s Boungou mine, an open-pit gold mine in the eastern part of the country, about 25 miles away.

Following last year’s two convoy attacks, Semafo began flying foreign workers and contractors by helicopter to its two mines in Burkina Faso. Local employees, however, continued to be moved in buses although the company said that it had augmented their security.

W. Cory Wanless, a Toronto lawyer representing a group of Guatemalan women who say they were gang-raped by security forces retained by another Canadian mining company, called Semafo’s action a double-standard for employee security, which may now expose it to litigation in Canada.

“It is highly distressing that Semafo made the decision to protect its expat workers by flying them to its mines precisely because of past attacks on ground convoys, and yet continues to rely on exposed ground convoys for its local workers,” Mr. Wanless said. “To me, this reeks of a Canadian company valuing the lives of Canadian and other Western expats over the lives of Africans.”

Semafo did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Semafo said that it was suspending production at the mine that was the convoy’s destination “out of respect to the victims and those impacted and to ensure the highest levels of operational safety.”

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