Montreal-based gold miner Semafo Inc. says it has suspended operations at its Boungou mine in Burkina Faso a day after at least 37 people were killed in an ambush on their way to the site.
The bus convoy of company employees, contractors and suppliers, escorted by military personnel, was attacked about 40 kilometres from the Boungou mine.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s ambush but the high death toll and targeting of a foreign company’s employees suggest that well-armed jihadists carried out the assault. At least 60 other people were wounded in the ambush, according to regional governor Col. Saidou Sanou.
Semafo president and CEO Benoit Desormeaux said that given the scale of the attack, it will take time to deal with the situation properly as the company looks to support those affected.
“We are devastated by this unprecedented attack. Oursincerest sympathies go out to the families and colleagues of the victims,” he said in a statement Thursday.
Global Affairs Canada said Thursday it did not have any reports of Canadian citizens being affected by the incident.
Semafo says the mine site in the West African country remains secured, but has suspended operations out of respect to the victims and to ensure operational safety.
The company’s share price was down more than five per cent in midday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange Thursday after closing down about 11 per cent the day before.
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said Thursday that security forces will hunt down “terrorists and all their accomplices” following what is believed to be the deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since Islamic extremists became active in the country in 2015.
The country’s capital, Ouagadougou, was hit by extremist violence for the first time in January 2016. At least 30 people were killed after the militants targeted a cafe popular with foreigners. Then in August 2017, 18 people were killed in an attack on a Turkish restaurant in the capital.
Mining operations have also been targeted by gunmen in the past. In August 2018, a Semafo employee and a subcontractor were killed when a bus carrying workers was attacked, and five police officers and an employee were killed in another attack a few days earlier.
In response to the two armed incidents, Semafo said expatriate employees would be transported by helicopter between the mine and Ouagadougou, while it boosted ground transportation security with military escorts.
Last December, government security forces were attacked while travelling on the road to the Boungou mine site in an incident that left five dead.
Semafo said Thursday it continues to work with all levels of authorities on the safety and security of those working for the company.
The company is not the only Canadian operation to be targeted. In January, Kirk Woodman, who was working for Vancouver-based Progress Minerals Inc., was found dead after being kidnapped from a company exploration camp in the country.