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Banro welcomes safe return of kidnapped employees

JOHANNESBURG – The four employees kidnapped in March while working at dual-listed Canadian gold mining company Banro’s Namoya gold mine, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been released after a “long and difficult ordeal”.

The company on Monday announced the safe return of its employees, three Congolese and a French national, who were kidnapped, along with a fifth employee, a Tanzanian who had been later freed, allegedly for ransom.

“Banro extends its heartfelt thanks to all those in the community and government and so many others who supported our efforts to gain our colleagues’ safe return. The priority now is to reunite our colleagues with their families and provide them with support,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

Miningmx earlier reported that the release followed several days of negotiations and demands of a $1-million ransom, in addition to contractual agreements from Banro that it would build basic infrastructure in the area.

It is reported that the kidnappers formed part of the local community and did not think the company was doing enough to provide jobs.

The Canadian gold miner has been a target in recent months, the most recent just over a week ago when armed intruders failed in their storming of the Namoya mine camp. While the mine’s workers were unharmed, there were at least three fatalities – one intruder, one military personnel and one policeman.

This had followed a series of attacks on police and military personnel in the village areas surrounding the mine earlier in May.

“Reinforcements to support the police and military have arrived on site. As a precautionary measure, foreign nationals and non-essential local staff will be leaving site on a temporary basis until the security situation stabilises,” the company had said in a statement on May 18.

Mining operations restarted on May 22.

Banro’s sister site, Twangiza gold mine, continued operations as normal, however. In February, it had also been a target of armed robbers attempting to forcibly enter the site in a siege that left three mine police officers and one of the armedrobbers dead. A security guard was injured.

Further, newswire Bloomberg in September reported an ambush of a convoy of Banro-contracted empty trucks after delivering fuel and mining equipment, when 13 drivers were kidnapped and six trucks burned some 40 km from Namoya.

The 13 drivers were released shortly thereafter after an offensive undertaken by the Congolese army.

The 23 local drivers of the trucks, which were operated by Banro subcontractor Simba Logistics, were immediately released, with the armed group specifically targeting foreign nationals, allegedly for ransom, Bloomberg had reported.

Before this, a Banro spokesperson had told Bloomberg that there had been no similar incident since the company’s establishment in the region in 2004.

Source : Mining Weekly